‘Staying on’ or is it more a case of hanging on? This is another booker winner set around the end of colonial rule in India and the world that’s emerged since.
Mr and Mrs Colonel Smalley chose to ‘stay on’ after independence because, in his eyes, Tusker (Colonel Smalley) was 10 years too young to retire and 10 years too old to return to Britain for a new start. A result of this is that the Smalley’s have gradually seen their status and wealth in Indian society decrease as time has gone on.
The village of Pangkot where the novel is set makes me picture the hill town of ‘Nuwara Eliya’ a town in Sri Lanka I visited a couple of years ago, the idea of a faded glamour and elegance of old Englishness that was still reminisced about but was increasingly insignificant is mainly what drew me to the comparison and I found myself picturing the local ‘Tongas’ in a similar way to the Tuk Tuks I experienced in Nuwara Eliya.
The book has a sad feel to it, like the best of life has passed, but there is that comfortable acceptance for the way life is now and the lack of desire to change it at a late stage in life. It’s a love story on a number of levels – between key couples in the novel and a love of India.
As an often over excitable and glass half full kind of girl this quote made me chuckle…
“Enthusiasm is the most ruinous thing I can think of” (Tusker)
Of the Booker winners about India and independence this is one of my favourites so far (I’m expecting more in the remaining novels to read!), again it’s a hard reason to put a finger on so I’d recommend reading it for yourself and letting me know if you agree!