Sunday, January 5, 2014

Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald

ZemindarIn a nutshell: A young woman. Laura accompanies her cousin Emily and her husband Charles on a sort of wedding trip to India as a paid lady's companion.. There they meet up the  husband's half brother Oliver who is a Zemindar of a vast estate called Hassanganj. Cutting a looooong story of 763 pages short, they get caught up in the Sepoy rebellion and seige of Lucknow.As the inside jacket concludes, Laura is forced to confront her own divided loyalties and her own mutinous heart.

If youve read M.M.Kaye's "Shadow of the Moon", Zemindar is very similar in that they are both set during the same time period, although SOTM takes place outside the residency and Zemindar is 'under siege' at Lucknow. Aside from the actual rebellion which they hold in common you will also recognize a pregnancy during a time of trouble and a milch goat.

I particularly enjoyed the journey and days of Hassanganj. It was a feast for the eyes and senses and I could imagine just what it was like (based on a real mansion which still apparently exists) and how it functioned like its own city.I also appreciated seeing things from the "native side" and feeling what they may have felt during this time of upheaval.The characters are all fully drawn and real.

So I really enjoyed this book but my only problem with it was that I have a hard time "sitting still" in a book. I want to be doing something, going somewhere, seeing something. But once you hit the halfway mark in the book, be prepared to sit still; for over 250 pages of the book we are under siege and nothing really changes. People die, food gets scarcer,life becomes over all very stinky indeed and still we wait...and wait...and wait.

The author did an awesome job of portraying the insane boredom and fear of the siege but I was rather glad to be done with it.Here's one thing I would have liked done differently:

While we are "sitting out the siege" at Lucknow, Oliver is having a rather disturbing and bloody adventure at Cawnpore. But we arent "sent to the where the action is" we have to wait for him to return and TELL us which isn't nearly as powerful as SEEING it. That was frustrating. But it's still a good book, and deserves a rightful place among my favorite epics.

Bottom Line: 5 Star story, 4 star enjoyment level.

SEX: Behind closed doors, very mild romance level (a few kisses)
VIOLENCE: The violence is mostly "after the fact" as carnage but can be gruesome. Such is true life.

MY RATING: PG-13 (for disturbing imagery).

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