4.5 out of 5 stars
On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE
On Goodreads HERE
I bought this book as soon as I'd read the stand-alone sequel, Back Home. In Cawnpore, India, John Williamson is employed as a Deputy Collector in the British governed town during the middle of the 19th century. Not always comfortable in the role of a conqueror in a foreign country, he seeks his own amusement, and forms relationships outside the British community.
This is the story of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and the build up and aftermath. I knew next to nothing about this, and found it most interesting. Tom Williams is a skilful writer, adept in both characterisation and story telling. I liked how Williamson was reminded that the British were the trespassers, and that the Indians' viewpoint was that they were taking back what was rightfully theirs; possibly the most profound moment in the book. The treatment of the British by the Indians might not have been honourable, but it was no less so than in any other war; however, the purpose of a book review is to comment on the readability of the book itself, not the activities of the characters, especially when the historical fiction is based on fact.
In early part of the book the author has portrayed so well the stiff formalities of the early Victorians. As tension mounts, he doesn't favour any particular faction within the story, and the descriptions of the build up to the massacre are detailed and well thought out. Sometimes I found the book a little long-winded, but not often; sometimes long-windedness is necessary in order to report all facts.
Williamson disguises himself as an Indian to facilitate his ability to move between camps; at times I wondered if this was a little far-fetched, but then I read in the author's notes at the end that some British officers used such disguises successfully during the mutiny, so do please bear that in mind when reading.
On occasion I found the detail of his physical relationship with Mungo Buksh to be unnecessary, but that may be because I prefer my battle stories without the 'love interest'! On the whole, this novel is all that historical fiction should be: absorbing, believable and educational.
Added extra! Either before or after you've read this book, you might like to read this excellent article by Liz Lloyd on her 'Lost in the Past' blog, the tragic tale of the English ladies of Cawnpore ~ brings it home. It's HERE
BACK HOME by Tom Williams reviewed HERE
It's good to read that Cawnpore takes you into the story of the Indian Mutiny from both viewpoints but also involves you as a reader.ReplyDelete
Indeed! I have to say it put me on the side of the Indians more... but nothing is black and white, of course.Delete
Very interesting, don't know much about this.ReplyDelete
No, I knew next to nothing until I read this! One of the reasons I like histfic :)Delete
Something else I have no knowledge of - thank heavens for writers, huh? Good review and I would start with the first book, I think.ReplyDelete
I'd thoroughly recommend getting Back Home from the RBRT list, Noelle! And yes, I love histfic when it teaches me stuff :)Delete