Review: Heat and Dust – Ruth Prawer Jhabvala 

This novel has a dual narrative of two women distantly from the same family (the first wife of the others grandfather) but a few generations apart. It’s another Booker set in India (I seem to be reading them back to back at the moment – it must be something about bookers from the 1970s!). 
It’s a short book and I think that’s what makes it ok to be honest. The earlier part of the story, about Olivia an English woman who goes out to India with her husband in the 1920s but becomes swept up in the romance of the local Indian prince and leaves her husband for him – you’re told this at the start of the book so I’m not giving anything away. This scandalous behaviour (for the 1920s colonials) told through letters written to a sister in France at the time, is what’s brings the younger woman, who isn’t named, to revisit Olivia’s India through seeing the towns, shrines and countryside which Olivia fell for. 
You can see similarities between the two women’s stories, Olivia is definitely trapped by her life as an army wife and her friendship and then relationship with the prince is her form of escapism from it all, plunging her deeply into a world derided by the other English officers and their wives. The younger woman in the story too seems to be escaping from life in England, this shows the reader how attitudes have changed since Olivia’s time, all these years later it is socially ok for the woman to live alone in an Indian house share, have a relationship with an indian man, wear local dress and harangue the hospital staff about the illnesses of the local homeless people.  
I feel that this novel is one that will be easy to forget, already, having finished it almost a week ago I’ve really had to think about what happened, when in the story. I also felt like the ending was a bit of a non event, just fizzling out without any closure on the earlier story. 

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