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The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) Paperback – May 22, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Fiction (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 462 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (May 22, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226743403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226743400
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 5.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Ah no, waste no pity on young Kumar. Whatever he got while in the hands of the police he deserved. And waste no pity on her either. She also got what she deserved."

August 1942. World War II is reaching its apex, with the conflict consuming almost all of Asia and Europe. In Southeast Asia, the Japanese have driven the British army out of Burma and are threatening India, where Britain's beleaguered forces find themselves facing an increasingly hostile Indian populace tired of decades of unfulfilled promises of freedom. On a dark monsoonal night in the town of Mayapore, amid an outbreak of anti-British rioting, a gang of Indian men rape a young British woman. Through this rape, we are introduced to a cast of characters engulfed and subsequently carried away by the storm of events. Paul Scott's The Jewel in the Crown is part historical novel, part mystery, part love story, part allegory. But to reduce it to any of these elements is to miss its irony, poignancy, and beauty. Full of complex characters and rich in atmosphere and symbolism, this is a novel that works on many different levels.

The events unfold through the eyes of a varied cast of characters--both British and Indian--united by their inability to escape the straightjacket of race and social roles, no matter their class, education, or political views. This is particularly excruciating for the rape victim and the young Indian man accused of the crime. These two are drawn to each other by their alienation from the roles they are expected to play. Englishwoman Daphne Manners finds herself increasingly estranged from her countrymen, while Hari Kumar, an Indian who has lived in Britain for all but two years of his life and is so anglicized that he doesn't even speak Hindi, can't abide his native land. Their struggle with the identities and constraints that society imposes on them and the manifestations of their conflict form the core of the novel, providing the timelessness and richness that make it one of the great novels of the 20th century.

The Jewel in the Crown, originally published in 1966, is the first of the Raj Quartet, the sweeping epic that looks at the collapse in the 1940s of British rule in India. It was followed by The Day of the Scorpion, The Towers of Silence, and A Division of Spoils. --Jonathan King

Review

“Paul Scott’s vision is both precise and painterly. Like an engraver crosshatching I the illusion of fullness, he selects nuances that will make his characters take on depth and poignancy.”
(Jean G. Zorn New York Times Book Review)

“One has to admire Mr. Scott’s gifts as a buttonholing storyteller, and his rich, close-textured prose; his descriptions of action and of certain kinds of relationships are superb.”
(Guardian)

“What has always astonished me about The Raj Quartet is its sense of sophisticated and total control of its gigantic scenario and highly varied characters. The four volumes constitute perfectly interlocking movement of a grand overall design. The politics are handled with an expertise that intrigues and never bores, and are always seen in terms of individuals.”
(Peter Green New Republic)

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Customer Reviews

I read all 4 volumes in about a month.
Debbie Terrill
Unfortunately, this book really doesn't tell me anything, it doesn't allow me to feel what the characters are feeling.
P. A. Roads
Much of the story is told through the reflections of different characters who see things from different viewpoints.
Bucherwurm

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on October 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Raj quartet -- which begins with the Jewel in the Crown -- is a meticulously thorough and detailed examination of the last days of the British empire in India. All four novels in the quartet circle around a single event -- the rape of an English girl by persons unknown in 1942.
This is not an original novel. Scott borrows his story from Forester ("A Passage to India") tosses in a little Kipling, injects a Mother Teresa clone (Was Scott influenced by Mother Teresa or was she influenced by Scott?), Gandhi, and "Freedom at Midnight." He has the usual British obsession with social class. But nobody has ever examined so minutely the British Raj. In fact, the main criticism of the novel might be that Scott tells far more than you wanted to know about the British in India.
Scott's characterizations are marvelous and always changing as he shifts viewpoints. Mildren Layton is despicable in the third book of the quartet, but rehabilitated slightly in the fourth. The policeman Ronald Merrick is fascinating: menacing, pathetic, courageous, cruel, and brilliant in turn. An American would portray him as a flawed hero who rose above his humble origins through hard work and diligence. To the British, he is a villain for exactly the same reasons.
The Raj Quartet is not for everybody. It presumes that you have knowledge about India and the British empire. It's a little tedious in places. I thought the fourth novel in the quartet was a bust, until it redeemed itself with a dynamite conclusion about the last days of British India, the horrific communal violence between Muslim and Hindu, the fate of Ronald Merrick, and the return to the story of Hari Kumar, the tragic Indian boy who loved and lost the English girl raped in the Bibighar Gardens in 1942.
I don't read nor enjoy much of what is considered "good" literature, but the Raj Quartet is an exception. This is an exceptional novel by any standards.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on April 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Hari Kumar's father made every effort to ensure his son would grow up to become the perfect Anglo-Indian executive. Hari was raised in England and was attended by a governess and later a tutor. He attended Chillingborough a top school known for its production of British Civil Servants. Eventually, Hari was to return to India to work for the Indian Civil Service. Unfortunately, external forces disrupted his life and although he returned to India, it was not in the circumstances his father had planned. THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN is the story of Hari's life.
THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN is Book I in the series written by Paul Scott known as the Raj Quartet. JEWEL is a complete novel, but it also lays the groundwork for the three other books in the series. The later books elaborate the story laid out in Book 1. Although Hari is absent from large sections of the text in Books 2-4, he is the main character from the beginning to the end. He is the invisible presence who haunts the other characters. He may symbolize India, but As Daphne Manners says in her journal, he is his own simile.
JEWEL takes place in 1942, mostly in India. Hari's story is a composite developed from many viewpoints--court depositions, recorded hearing proceedings, journals, and the personal remembrances of those who him. The narrator piecing the story together appears to be a writer or reporter describing the so-called Mayapore riots of 1942 and their aftermath in the years following. Pandit Baba, an Indian scholar, says in a Book 2 that the word "riot" is a misnomer. The English say it was a riot but the Indians say it was a lawful protest by a people who had suffered outrage and wanted Independance.
The Raj Quartet reminds me of Jane Austin's novels --especially her later books MANSFIELD PARK and EMMA.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Terrill on December 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an absolutely brilliant work. Read all 4 volumes -- don't stop with this first volume. Scott begins this volume with "...this is the story of a rape..." As the work progresses the rape, and the people involved in it, become symbols of India, of the Raj - and become much larger than mere characters.
That said, the characterization is incredible -- even minor characters who appear only briefly are cunningly sketched. The stories are gripping. I read all 4 volumes in about a month. I just couldn't put it down. Finishing it, I was left knowing more -- and knowing less -- about India during the decline of British rule. I think that is what Scott intended.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Annika S on July 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I truly envy the reader who yet has to come across The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott. The four books are absolutely fantastic. Beginning with "The Jewel in the Crown" one sets out on a journey through the British Empire's last years of rule in India, and it is one magical trip. Scott portrays a group of people through the books, some main and some minor characters, but all are described vividly and distinctly, and it is nearly impossible to stop reading and follow these characters' destinies.
The main story through which everything evolves is the love affair between a somewhat awkward English woman and a British top-school educated Indian, who has trouble finding his place in an India he does not know. Their relationship is looked upon with disgust, above all from the Police Inspector Merrick, one of the other leading characters through the four books. Merrick also has a soft spot for the English woman, Ms Manners, and is outraged and humiliated by the fact that she would prefer this Indian, Hari Kumar. His anger is naturally strengthened by Kumar's superior education and upbringing, his speaking English with a received pronuciation whereas Merrick himself has a working-class background he desperately tries to hide.
But this is only one of the stories that the books describe; there are many different characters and families that interact somewhat, we leap forward and backward, some people meet each other, some don't -but it is all beautifully tied together to the backdrop of the political instability that would eventually lead to the end of British rule. The books give, apart from superb story-telling and interesting characters, a profound lesson in modern history in this part of the world. Scott is very objective and as a reader you develop both warm and resentful feelings to the British and the Indians alike. A superb read deeply recommended.
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