Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Coromandel Sea Change into Something Rich and Strange

Many people are bewitched on their first encounter with India. Bewitched or repelled.
Blaise hated the bazaars, the smell of human excrement in the gutters, the cooking smells of mustard oil and ghee, the over ripe fruit with their cloud of flies, the starving children, the cheap, man made goods. But his eighteen-year-old, newly wed wife had spent a lifetime sheltered in school. "I want to see it whole," she insisted. She was tired of club people and westernized Indians.

Blaise and Mary's marriage was perhaps doomed from the beginning. After they had made love, Blaise asked her father for her hand in marriage--because her father was his boss and it was the right thing to do. She had thought she was in love. Their unsuitability is brought into deep relief at the Patna Inn on the beautiful and dangerous Coromandel Coast.

The hotel and city was buzzing with campaigning before the local election, the hotel rooms full. The young couple are given a romantic, open beach house. Mary loves it. Blaise complains about the lack of running water and privacy. When they are visited by a donkey, Mary wants to give it sugar; Blaise wants the dirty beast away.

Wandering alone at night, Mary meets the charming Krishnan, a Western educated candidate posing as Krishna to draw voters to him. He is taking a vow of silence, and dressed in a loin cloth, his lips painted blue, he will parade through the streets, his hand held in blessing.

Remember all is fair in love and war. Politics now are a war, a bitter, greedy war and I have to fight Padmina Retty in every way I can...Indian politics are corrupt, venal..."
Krishnan's idealism and personal charm draw Mary to assist him in his campaign. He sends a message inviting her to be on his lorry dressed as the goddess Radha, a Hindu goddess. The plain Mary is dressed in a gauze and gold tissue sari, her face is painted, and she decked with beads and flowers and bracelets of gold.

"It's this Kirshnan. You're under a spell...Lots of girls go in at the deep end when they first meet Indians....He's using you."

Mary will not behave appropriately as the wife to a man in Blaise's position as a rising young diplomat. In the meantime, the provocative and treacherous dark skinned beauty Kuku has fallen in love with the handsome Nordic Blaise. Things spin out of control, and no one can stop it. But in the end Mary learns how to love--everyone, anyone.

Mary doesn't know, doesn't dream...This isn't England or even Europe. It's such a violent place.

Rumer Godden's dramatic novel is filled with memorable characters with interesting side stories and vivid descriptions of Godden's beloved India.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Cromandel Sea Change
Rumer Godden
Open Road Media
Publication Dec. 20, 2016
ISBN: 9781504042055

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