Title: East of the Sun
Author: Julia Gregson
Release Date: June 2, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the publisher’s website:
As the Kaisar-i-Hind weighs anchor for Bombay in the autumn of 1928, its passengers ponder their fate in a distant land. They are part of the “Fishing Fleet” — the name given to the legions of Englishwomen who sail to India each year in search of husbands, heedless of the life that awaits them. The inexperienced chaperone Viva Holloway has been entrusted to watch over three unsettling charges. There’s Rose, as beautiful as she is naïve, who plans to marry a cavalry officer she has met a mere handful of times. Her bridesmaid, Victoria, is hell-bent on losing her virginity en route before finding a husband of her own. And shadowing them all is the malevolent presence of a disturbed schoolboy named Guy Glover.
From the parties of the wealthy Bombay socialites to the poverty of Tamarind Street, from the sooty streets of London to the genteel conversation of the Bombay Yacht Club, East of the Sun is graced with lavish detail and a penetrating sensitivity — historical fiction at its greatest.
I’m generally very interested in books about India, though I haven’t read many from the British perspective. Therefore, when I heard about East of the Sun, which is about three British women traveling to India at a very volatile time in its history, I immediately knew I wanted to read it.
East of the Sun is an epic novel, as can be discerned by its sheer size. It tackles so many things at once: the stories of three very different women, the turbulence of Indian society, the historical details of India, the experiences of the British military. It tries to be many different things at once, and for the most part, it succeeds at this task. The only area where it really is lacking is the storyline featuring Guy Glover. I thought that was completely unnecessary and actually took away from the rest of the book!
Of the three main characters, I think I liked Rose the best. She was much stronger than she initially appeared. Over the course of East of the Sun, she grows from a naive child to a confident woman. Though she must experience some trials and hardships to arrive at this point, it’s a very gratifying journey. I also liked Viva, though her emotional issues made her a bit difficult to really love. She held everyone at an arm’s length, including, it seems, the reader. It’s hard to get to know her, to understand what’s beneath the surface. Though we see her true character, we don’t really understand it until the end of the book.
I also enjoyed reading about India coming into its own in the novel. I could completely understand why the Indians no longer wanted the British in their country, why they were skeptical of Viva’s orphanage. The historical details really made the novel for me. I loved reading about the geography and rich history of India.
If you enjoy historically rich, detailed, and in depth novels, then definitely give East of the Sun a try. Despite its length (which is considerable), it definitely holds the reader’s attention and is a great read.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review.