CBR11Bingo – Award Winner
This is a Booker Prize winning novel from 1975. This novel also became a movie made by Merchant/Ivory and Prawer Jhabvala wrote the screenplay, which she continued to do for other Merchant/Ivory movies. She split her career writing films and writing novels.
The novel is told through a singular narrator, but two different narratives. There’s a contemporary narrative of the young narrator living in India and having researched her great grandmother, an English woman and wife of an English officer who became a scandal in her youth. In the contemporary narrative, we find our narrator trying to figure out her own sense of the world, being English, but no longer being part of Empire. She constructs the narrative of her great grandmother, Olivia, through the series of letters and journals left over from her long life now that she’s gone.
The novel is curious and interesting, but kind of slight. It’s interesting to me to think about this novel less on its own terms, but in terms of the Booker Prize, especially the first decade or so of the prize, and the British novel in the 1970s. In the first 15 years of the prize, I can think about six or so novels directly dealing with the collapse of Empire. PH Newby’s Something to Answer For, JG Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur (and this will eventually include his novel Troubles, which won the “lost” booker), Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, William Golding’s Rites of Passage, Paul Scott’s Staying On, VS Naipaul’s In a Free State, this novel, Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist, and possibly more in the ones I haven’t read.
This was clearly on the minds of writers.