Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, January 09, 2012

Brewing up a batch of historical British tea laced with India intrigue

One of my current reading choices this winter is Lauren Willig's Betrayal of the Blood Lily,which is the sixth volume in her Pink Carnation series of historical romance spy novels(I'm totally reading these books out of order,but that's a whole other story).

The heroine of the historical portion of the book is Penelope,a young lady who found herself in a socially compromising circumstance and wound up entering into a hasty marriage with someone she barely likes,let alone love.

She and her new husband are sent off to India,where his new posting is at a small royal court that is on the brink of breaking off with England due to the schemes of a Napoleonic spy known as The Marigold. Teaming up with Captain Alex Reid,Penelope finds purpose in thwarting the bad guys and perhaps a taste of true love as well:

Reading this book has been a delight so far,and it makes me think of other titles with a British in India setting that I have enjoyed in the past or would love to check out sometime in the near future.

While many smart and serious novels,such as A Passage to India,have been written about the troublesome times that both countries have had with each other and the cultural consequences of those days,the ones that seem to resonate the most with readers are the steadfast saga versions. One trait that England and India still share in the fictional realm is the allure of epic storytelling.

The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye is a prime example and it can be considered the Gone With The Wind of this genre. This tale of truly star crossed lovers,the British officer who was raised as an Indian boy and the princess that loved him since their mutual childhood,stirs the blood and keeps those pages a-turning. From palace schemes to the threat of suttee,the risks that Ash and Anjuli take for love are universally understood:

Author Bernard Cornwell has written several series of historical novels,with the most popular being the Richard Sharpe series. Three of the Sharpe books take place in India beginning with Sharpe's Tiger,where our hero starts his military career by stopping an alliance between a ruthless local leader and occupying French troops.

His adventures in that part of the world are followed up in Sharpe's Triumph and Sharpe's Fortress,where old scores are settled and new enemies halted in their tracks.

The three books were combined to make one made for television movie entitled Sharpe's Challenge,starring Sean Bean with Top Chef hostess Padma Lakshmi as one of the villains. I've only watched a couple of the Sharpe films but that was enough to peak my interest at least reading the first novel:

While Paul Scott's look at the last years of the British empire in India is called The Raj Quartet,most folks know this set of four novels by the first one,The Jewel in the Crown. That title was used by the TV miniseries version that played well to audiences in England and the United States.

The books chronicled the life and times of the British soldiers and their civilian counterparts residing in India during WWII,with part of the main plot dealing with an intimate assault that changes more than one person in the process.

The tone of this series is far more realistic in nature but it is an epic story of the changing of the social guard that some will heed and others will ignore to their peril:

The blending of cultures is always an engaging topic for fiction and hopefully exploring the similarities as well as the differences will give people more of an insight into each society.

Sadly,there are just some who prefer to focus on the outer finery of another culture instead of truly appreciating what makes this way of life tick but that shouldn't stop you from seeking the real splendor that other civilizations have to offer beyond the dance floor:

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