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The Raj Quartet: The Jewel in the Crown, The Day of the Scorpion (Everyman's Library) Hardcover – July 3, 2007
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“A major work, a glittering combination of brilliant craftsmanship, psychological perception and objective reporting.” –The New York Times
“An artful triumph. . . . [The Jewel in the Crown] goes forward with considerable power and urgency. . . . Besides storytelling, Mr. Scott uses his remarkable techniques to portray a place and a time, a society and its social arrangements, that are now history.” –The New Yorker
“Far more even than E.M. Forster, in whose long literary shadow he has to work, Paul Scott is successful in exploring the provinces of the human heart.” –Life
“The strength, assurance and stamina displayed in The Day of the Scorpion are quite outstanding. [Scott is a] writer who has thoroughly mastered his material, and who can . . . work through a maze of fascinating detail without for a moment losing sight of distant and considerable objectives.” –The Times Literary Supplement
“An epic of genius.” –Philadelphia Inquirer
About the Author
PAUL SCOTT was born in London in 1920. He served in the army from 1940 to 1946, mainly in India and Malaya. He is the author of thirteen distinguished novels including his famous The Raj Quartet. In 1977, Staying On won the Booker Prize. Paul Scott died in 1978.
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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. 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."
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.