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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
I bought it used and the spine of the book looked like it hadn't been read before. That should have been a clue of what was to come. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Shirley M Barry
This is a classic book about India in the time of the British presence. Reading it can help us understand the complex situation in the India/Pakistan area. Read morePublished 5 months ago by N. Johnson
An excellent book on all levels. This is the first of a quartet called the Raj Quartet. And there is an excellent Granada TV series very true to the novels .Published 6 months ago by Susan Straub
Long winded without saying anything. Simple story, complicated and verbose in its telling. Cliches characters who touch neither the big issues nor the dad to day lives of the timePublished 7 months ago by alison kenny
It opens with the story of Harid Kumar and Daphne Manners....A Sweeping, powerful saga..Not so much a story of India.. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Peter Lawrence Baldwin
This set of books is brilliant, telling, insightful, engaging and honest about colonial life in the Indies. Just staggeringly good. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Alan Walker
This is an engrossing tale told from several different perspectives. And depending on who's doing the telling, it can drag a bit or keep you turning the page. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Nora A.
I am mystified that Crown in the Jewel is not much better known. It is gripping great literature. Perhaps it is because the subject is India and the story is seldom relieved by... Read morePublished 15 months ago by ernest schusky