Advanced search

Looking for reading recs for books about the Raj (fiction or nonfiction)

(29 Posts)
BluthsFrozenBananas Thu 19-Apr-18 16:32:09

I often walk my little dog in a Victorian cemetery. I like to read the gravestones, and I've noticed many of them are for people who were either born, served or died in India. I've realised that the raj is something I know very little about, and I'd like to amend that.

I know there's the raj quartet aka Jewel in the Crown, but I have seen the tv version of that (albeit many years ago) and it's set during the 1940s in the dying days of the raj, I'm more interested in the Victorian period.

So basically I'm looking for either well researched historical fiction or not too over dense non fiction. I prefer social history to military or political history if that helps. Tia

OP’s posts: |
wherehavealltheflowersgone Thu 19-Apr-18 16:45:15

The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies?

CramptonHodnet Thu 19-Apr-18 18:39:53

A Passage to India by E M Forster
The Far Pavilions by M M Kaye

NannyR Thu 19-Apr-18 18:43:29

A really interesting non-fiction book is "children of the raj" by vyvyan brendon - all about the experiences of british children and families in India from late 1700s to independence.

Grassyass Thu 19-Apr-18 18:45:21

I love The Far Pavilions.

TonTonMacoute Thu 19-Apr-18 20:29:02

John Masters’ Indian Trilogy is set during the 19th century. I think the first one is the Deceivers.

JG Farrell’s Siege of Krishnapur is a fantastic read.

Kipling’s short stories, are brilliant. Try Plain Tales from the Hills.

lolaflores Thu 19-Apr-18 21:03:03

I loved the far pavilions too. William Dalrymple wrote non fiction on the raj his name and it ought to turn up.

lolaflores Thu 19-Apr-18 21:04:38

Actually, the opening sentence of your post sounds like the start of a novel...a wet and mysterious old cemetery with a link to Calcutta in 1890 through a fades name o n a mossy stone...getting shivers

jenandbean Thu 19-Apr-18 21:05:51

I love The Far Pavilions too. Might be time to read it again

bakingdemon Fri 20-Apr-18 16:54:20

Do you want pre or post Indian Mutiny? There's Rudyard Kipling of course

tripfiction Sat 21-Apr-18 17:55:45

Dinah Jefferies as mentioned is a good one. And The Jewel in the Crown is a classic

Eden Cards by Louise Brown (Calcutta)

The Last Queen of India, Michelle Moran set in Jhansi

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey 1920s Bombay

East of the Sun by Julia Gregson 1920s Bombay

Hope you find some titles that appeal...

DandelionAndBedrock Sat 21-Apr-18 18:06:29

M M Kaye also wrote "Shadow of the Moon", which is set during the 1857 mutiny.

ThomasHardyPerennial Mon 23-Apr-18 09:10:51

I really enjoyed The Ruling Caste by David Gilmour. It is about the Indian Civil Service during the Victorian Raj.

hippogriffwobble Mon 23-Apr-18 09:15:36

Wicked Women of the Raj.... can’t remember the author but lots of interesting stories of women who married maharajas. Plus Staying On by Paul Scott - or any by Paul Scott.

SusanWalker Mon 23-Apr-18 09:22:05

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark. Switches between the months leading up to partition and victorian India and England. The description of travelling on the ships and overland up to Simla in a time before the railways is fascinating.

I have never read the far pavilions. I will go and add it to my Amazon list.

SeriousChutzpah Mon 23-Apr-18 09:25:51

Agree that MM Kaye's The Far Pavilions is a cracking read, at least up until the Major Plot Event at the Suttee that I am not spoilering -- after that it goes downhill a bit.

EM Forster's A Passage to India is a brilliant novel, with a famously mysterious unspecific plot event at its heart, and JG Farrell's Siege of Krishnapur is plain brilliant.

There's also Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's Heat and Dust, which is a split time novel, with a woman going to India in the 70s to investigate the life of her great-aunt (I think) who was a Raj wife who had a scandalous affair with a maharajah.

And William Dalrymple's White Mughals -- non-fiction, set in the early Raj before women started coming out to India, when the male army officers, and colonial administrators married Indian women, sometimes converting to do so.

Kipling's Kim?

BluthsFrozenBananas Mon 23-Apr-18 09:30:05

Belated thanks for all the recommendations 😃. I’ve ordered the Far Pavilions to start with.

OP’s posts: |
SusanWalker Mon 23-Apr-18 09:30:58

Also I read a really good book once and if anyone recognises it and can tell me the title I'd be really grateful. It was based on a true story. The two sisters are children of a British man and an Indian woman he has taken as a mistress. They live in a bungalow on his compound. But then he dies. I think the mother is thrown out and struggles because of the stigma of being a widow. The girls end up in an orphanage/boarding school which moves because of the closeness of the front line with the Japanese in WW2.
One sister embraces her mixed heritage, but the other tries to pass as white British to marry a British man.

drwitch Mon 23-Apr-18 09:34:47

The peacock summer (or spring) Rumer Godden
Bohwani Junction - John Masters

The Flashman Books shock smile
and I'm pretty sure Jean Plaidy (or her under a different name) wrote a few about this

SeriousChutzpah Mon 23-Apr-18 09:46:31

Oh, Rumer Godden's Black Narcissus, too -- about a community of English nuns founding a new convent of their order in the Himalayas, and being seduced by the sensuality of their new surroundings and the local British agent. You might know the Powell and Pressburger film.

DancelikeEmmaGoldman Mon 23-Apr-18 13:07:47

Laurie King's The Game is set in India during the late stages of the Raj. She sends Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell to stay in the most astonishing palace. If you enjoy Kipling's Kim, you'll probably really enjoy this book (it's a mystery novel). The whole series is great, but this is one of my favourites.

lolaflores Mon 23-Apr-18 18:34:55

DancelikeEmmaGoldman I have bought the first of the Mary Russell Sherlock holmes series. They all sound brilliant and I think the best way to enjoy them is in order. Will take me a while to get to india but I reckon there will be a few good stories in between.
I love anything about India and I have uncovered so much to read.
Can I recommend an Rising Man by Aber Mukherjee...its brilliant. There are two books and very atmospheric, the distinct class structures and snobishness.
Lots to get on with there I think.

purplegreen99 Sat 28-Apr-18 20:39:13

I enjoyed Women of the Raj by Margaret MacMillan which is about women (mostly British) in India during the Victorian era.

Jellytussle Sun 13-May-18 23:03:43

I second The Siege of Krishnapur, a truly great novel.

tripfiction Fri 25-May-18 14:10:30

Ah, this thread got me inspired...

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in