East of the Sun

East of the Sun

by Julia Gregson


Ollie Richie:  This is a great summer read. Though it focuses on three women finding love, IT IS NOT A ROMANCE NOVEL. Set in 1929, it follows Viva, a young woman, trying to reconnect with her childhood in India where she lost her entire family - father, mother, and sister. Sent back to England by her mother before dying, Viva attends boarding schools and eventually carves out a meager existence for herself as a typist for a female writer. She learns from the manipulative lawyer, William, there is a trunk belonging to her parents being stored in India. Emboldened by this new quest, she falsely advertises her age and familiarity with India to become a chaperon to afford the trip. Her charges: 1. Rose, charming, beautiful, and blond. She is going to India to marry an officer she has met a handful of times and struggles against her homesickness. 2. Tor, Rose's best friend and bridesmaid. She tries way too hard to impress men due to her mother's continual harassment. Tor despite being there to support Rose has her own quest to shed her virginity at the first chance she gets and find a husband. 3. Lastly Guy, the creepy 16/18/19 (pathologically lied about his age) expelled student being returned to his parents in India.

Part coming of age, part history book, this novel captures not only the desperation of women looking for their last chance at marriage in India but also the unrest as the Britain Raj comes to its end. The journey to India is only a small part of the novel. It is how their lives unfold once in India that is truly good storytelling.
Rating: *****

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