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84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels ever written
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...
Published on October 23, 2001 by Smallchief

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars ... it used and the spine of the book looked like it hadn't been read before
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. The sentences in this book ran on and on and on and on and on. One single sentence was ten lines long. Ten lines! Where were the editors? I couldn't take it any more. I quit reading the book at page 24.
Published 1 month ago by Shirley M Barry


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84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels ever written, October 23, 2001
This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfidious interpretation?, April 28, 2001
This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (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. Like Austin, Scott has a keen understanding of human nature. His characterizations of Harry and Daphne are flawless. He builds them one fine layer at a time until the reader is convinced they must have been "real" people. Scott also describes an historical place and the people who lived in it with what the reader can only believe is verismilitude. Like Austin, Scott brings an exquisite sense of timing to his storyline. The near misses and plot twists leave the reader breathless. And,like Austin, Scott's sense of irony is so deftly incorporated one can only wonder at the various possible interpretations of the text.
JEWEL like India is difficult to understand. Scott has written his book in English, and as Hari Kumar's father said, English is a beautiful language but "it cannot be called truthful because its subtleties are infinite. It is the language of a people who have probably earned their reputation for perfidy."
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant work, December 28, 1999
This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Magic, July 21, 2000
By 
Annika S (Stockholm, Sweden) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (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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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Miraculous, October 12, 2000
By 
Nancy Chek (Maryland, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (Paperback)
This story is about India the way War and Peace is about Russia. For the exploration of a region as vast and complex as the human heart, a vast country can be a useful metaphor. But Tolstoy never took me where Paul Scott did. (I finished War and Peace only because I promised my Great Books group that I would. I have now read The Raj Quartet twice, and I'm ready to go again.) The first page of the first book in the quartet brings to our notice a young Indian girl's singing a morning raga, and indeed the whole four-volume story could be seen as a raga--melodic lines with theme and variation that circle and turn back again and again, each time taking a deeper cut into the mystery of what it means to be human. The characters are compelling, their voices individual and authentic. The structure is nothing short of a miracle. Just give yourself to it. Make no mistake: It may be set in India, but the book is about all of us.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly remarkable work, April 26, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (Paperback)
This novel, and the three following it, which together comprise the "Raj Quartet" are not to be missed. The fascinating stories of a dozen or so people in India during the last years of British rule are told from several different points of view throughout the entire series, and with each retelling, new impressions and opinions are expressed by the characters. New information is also relayed each time, adding new layers and propelling the story forward. The technical skill with which Scott manages to present so many different points of view alone makes the series worth reading. The incidental history lesson provided also adds a great deal. But it is the literary skill displayed that makes me rate these four novels near, if not at, the top of my list.
Be warned - these are not easy reads, especially if your knowledge of India under British rule is as limited as mine! The effort is well worth it, however.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beginning of the end for British India, March 24, 1999
This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (Paperback)
The Jewel in the Crown is a novel that combines a story of romantic love, a heinous crime and its consequences, and a detailed account of the social and political aspects of life in Colonial India, at a time when British rule was nearing collapse. It also presents the reader with several ironical situations which, if they accomplish nothing in their own right, serve to heighten one's understanding of the hopelessness of any form of reconciliation between the Britons and Indians that could erase more than a century of colonial oppression and native resistance. However, behind all of this, and also in front of it, one basic theme dominates the scene: As Mr. Scott writes in Part Five, the section devoted to 'Young Kumar', 'In India an Indian and an Englishman could never meet on the same terms.' This inescapable fact is what dooms the relationship between Daphne Manners, an English girl living in Mayapore, India, and Hari Kumar, an Indian who was brought up in England. It is Miss Crane's failure to recognise this unequivocal rule that leads to her undoing. It is possible that Paul Scott's main goal in publishing The Jewel in the Crown was to prove that by 1942, after a long history of racism, colonial oppression, and violent native uprisings, the British had no choice but to 'Quit India.' The time when the turbulent events of Great Britain and India's common history could still have been resolved had long since passed. The story was closed; the outcome inevitable. Daphne and Hari's failed attempt to break the old social barrier pushes the reader's hope of British-Indian reconciliation to the ground, and the terrible and ironic fate of the two lovers, and of Miss Crane, all champions of tolerance and understanding among the English and Indian populations living in India, drives that hope into the dust.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Experience Like no Other, November 5, 2000
By 
Deborah J Kriss (Milwaukee, WI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (Paperback)
If I had to choose one book to take with me to a desert isle as a shipwreck, The Raj Quartet would be that book. I felt terribly depressed as I finished the last page because I wanted the book to go on forever. The character development (particularly that of the female characters), the sweeping and dramatic historical setting, the intricate plot, the chilling depiction of terrible injustice, and the expert portayal of the British caste system in India make this a book with something for just about everyone.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is it real?, September 23, 2002
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This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (Paperback)
As the plot has been described in other reviews, I won't do it again, but I had to offer some comments. First, it is an excellent story - once you've read it, it won't be forgotten easily. Second, there are some parts that are long on description. Third, it is a bit difficult getting from Book 1 to Book 2, because the main character changes. However, don't let that put you off, because later on you'll find that the main characters from Book 1 are never out of the story for long, and form the backbone of what happens until the end. Fourth, I've never read a story that seemed so real. The continual return to the original event of the rape, which is explored again and again, is fascinating. Many characters' views of the event, of what happened afterwards, and of what the event meant about India become the story. Don't miss this one.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of the Novel, January 19, 2003
This review is from: The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (Paperback)
The Raj Quartet (comprised of four novels) is in my ultimate top ten of great novels and my favourite work of fiction for the twentieth century. Paul Scott is up there with Tolstoy and Jane Austen in stylistic and storytelling terms, as well as in his acute observation of the human condition. The Raj Quartet is exquisite to read, every word and every sentence appears to have the perfection that Jane Austen bestowed on her works but on the majestic scale of Tolstoy's War and Peace.
The Raj Quartet is multi-layered, complex, beyond the apparent. Is it about a country? Or is it about two countries? Paul Scott deals with the years of the "great divorce" as it were, but now at the beginning of a new century the continuing implications of the historic British occupation are as fresh as ever, both in India and the UK, one example being the the unforseen post war immigration and lifting of racial barriers between two peoples (I myself am a product of a post war marriage between an Indian father and British mother).
The question of identity is explored. What makes an Indian? (still a relevant question in a subcontinent of such diverse cultures, religions, languages, outlooks, etc racked by communalism). What happens to a group (the Raj British) who are no longer needed in either India or Britain? (I recommend Staying On by Paul Scott which deals with a minor character who does stay on in India.)
Beyond the themes of history, colonialism and imperialism, there is the theme of the universal human experience. Who are we all really? Should we let our nationality and culture define who we are? Or as one character, Sarah Layton, finally have the courage to break free and define our own identity. Sarah at first is apart from "the other", then in one revealing scene (the ride with Ahmed) she subconsciously turns to face "the other" though unsuccessfully and finally in the beautifully written and incredibly sensual scene where she decides to dive into the forbidden (the seduction by Clark, who I see myself as Eros or the Hindu God of Love, Kama) she breaks through into her individuality, her "grace".
Ultimately, the time in which the Raj Quartet is set, with the division between two races, and between Indians themselves, is an ill-fated time, inevitably leading to tragedy for the characters who find themselves attempting to bridge barriers whether subconsciously or consciously and to those Indians also like Ahmed and Hari who are not to be slotted into convenient pigeon holes of socio/cultural/racial expectations.
Very rich, very westernized, very aristocratic Indians had always been able to flout the racial barriers set in place both by orthodox Indians and the British of the Raj, and vice versa for some enlightened British - examples being Lady Chatterjee, the eccentric and Rajput princess who married the equally eccentric Bengali Kulin Brahmin Sir Nilu Chatterjee and enraged her family, Lady Manners, the widow of a Governor and a law onto herself, Mira, the rich Indian lesbian bohemian and her divorced Rani lover. However, the British and Indians of this sort had always been in the extreme minority historically. Hari's tragedy is that he could have belonged to this group if Lady Chatterjee had discovered him earlier and if Merrick had not from an early point fixed his obsessive interest in him.
In the end we are left with Hari and Daphne's child as a symbol of hope for the future - a child of two worlds.
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The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1)
The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) by Paul Scott (Paperback - May 22, 1998)
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