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The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) Paperback – May 22, 1998
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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book was slow reading due to Indian names and places, and difficult vocabulary that was not for easy reading. It was wordy, and too much explanation to get to the point.Published 1 month ago by Angelica McDermott
I read this book because I liked the PBS series of the same title. The book isn't sequential, so that is a bit confusing. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Leenie
THE STORY IS A LITTLE DISJOINTED AS YOU MOVE THROUGH THE BOOK. IT'S MAINLY A SOAP OPERA KIND OF A BOOK.Published 3 months ago by Perry McNeill
In Jewel in the Crown, Scott brought to life in intricate detail an incredibly contested era and Anglo-Indian history, the end of the British Raj. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Catherine Chandler
volume 1 deals mainly with the missionary - the TV series was much better.Published 4 months ago by Carlos Goldberg
This book was boring and very difficult to follow. I would not recommend itPublished 4 months ago by Joanne Laterza
Enjoyed. The book was easier to follow than the movie.Published 5 months ago by Charles Porterfield
This is an interminably long, almost stream of consciousness book. Yet I find myself continuing to read. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Robert Y. Ellis