Novel set in Mussoorie, India (a “way of returning to India”) – plus author chat
- Book: A House called Askival
- Location: Mussoorie
- Author: Merryn Glover
“India… conquered the foreigner first through the senses, and only later claimed the mind”
I took this book with me on a recent trip to India and was enthralled by the story unfolding on the pages in the novel. I then looked up at my surroundings to find that the experiences on the paper continued and echoed around me in real life. That of course is what TripFiction is largely about. As I sat with the langur monkeys reading the book (me, not them), the author also describes these fierce little black-faced creatures in the text, which made reading the book such a multi dimensional experience:
“There was a rushing in the trees that made her jump. A troop of langur monkeys were springing through the branches, their long limbs a silvery grey, faces black. One turned his eyes on her, bright and fierce, and she caught a hiss through teeth before he swung away.”
Ruth arrives in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand to look after her ailing father, James. Theirs has not been an easy relationship and it is many years since they last met. The story looks back over three generations, right back to the grandparents originally missionaries from the States. The family has built up substantial roots in this part of India, and invested emotional energy over many years caring for the well-being of the locals. Ruth’s experience has been that the love and care going out to the people around them has not really been reflected in family dynamics, and she for one has felt emotionally neglected. It is therefore with foreboding that she arrives in this all too familiar hill station, her feelings are very mixed. She settles into an existence in Mussoorie, reliving her past in the context of the present, and with an underlying sadness as she recognises: “I don’t think I love life. I just live it“. And as the narrative progresses we begin to understand why.
Iqbal is caring for her father – but who he is remains a mystery that gradually unfolds as the family history becomes clearer. In Ruth’s mind much time is spent recalling her school years – boarding school with its sense of abandonment; and her first love Manveer, a Sikh who also lived in the school, and who accepts her for herself only at great cost to himself.
The stories intertwine well and history is blended into the narrative to add to the overall understanding – what Partition meant for millions of people and how the conflict between religions flared up and caused so much strife between peoples. And it is a story about family, about rejection and loyalty and so much more.
I found the cover of this novel really striking and so we have added it to our Hall of Fame Board over on Pinterest “Book Covers That Caught Our Eye”
This review first appeared on our blog where we chat to the author about India and writing.