Thursday, 30 May 2013

Under the Jewelled Sky by Alison McQueen

review by Maryom

Under The Jewelled Sky is the story of Sophie Schofield who, shortly after WW2, goes to India where her father has taken up a post as doctor in the court of a wealthy maharajah. There she finds her first love and bitter heartbreak.
Ten years later, she is heading back to India but this time as the wife of a junior, but very ambitious, diplomat, Lucien Grainger. The India she encounters this time is very different to the one she knew before but the country still has the ability to stir up the past and all the forbidden emotions from then.

Alison McQueen has cleverly constructed a tale of dark family secrets that moves between the here and now of the late 1950s to the past of a decade earlier, weaving the two time-lines together seamlessly.
The characters are all sharply drawn individuals - not merely the main 'triangle' of Sophie, Lucien and Jag but the supporting cast of gossipy bored ex-pat wives or the Maharani in her splendid isolation are all brought to life on the page.
Sophie's story plays out against the magnificent backdrop of India - or rather of four very different aspects of it  - the fairytale like setting and splendour of the Maharajah's palace, the squalor and desperation of refugee camps following the partition of India and Pakistan, the rarefied life of British embassy staff cut off from the reality of India and the peaceful setting of the Nilgiri hills. All of these are described so vividly that I felt I was there.
A very enjoyable read and a newly discovered author that I'd like to read more from.

A slight aside thought is that although this novel definitely falls under the historical fiction category I've heard such a lot about India from my father's time spent there during WW2, that it feels strange to consider a period after then as history.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars 
Publisher - Orion 
Genre - adult, historical fiction

Buy Under the Jewelled Sky from Amazon

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