In 1963, Hope Cooke put a match to her unopened bank statements and bags of old laundry, gave away her folk dresses, and set...


TIME CHANGE: An Autobiography

In 1963, Hope Cooke put a match to her unopened bank statements and bags of old laundry, gave away her folk dresses, and set off--with misgivings, already--to marry the Maharaj Kumar, or Crown Prince, of tiny Himalayan Sikkim. She wanted to belong, after an anchorless, rudderless childhood (socialite mother dead, plebeian father cast out, home an apartment--staffed by a succession of sadistic governesses--across the hall from her elderly grandparents'); she wanted to be good for Sikkim (she'd met the Maharaj on a rapt visit to India); but her only apparent preparation for life, at 23, was writing some creditable papers at Sarah Lawrence. It's a mingy, grungy sort of story--even now, Hope sounds like a flower child who chose the wrong commune--but the double irony gives it an edge: for, if Hope Cooke wasn't what the world imagined, neither was being Crown Princess (and later Queen) of Sikkim. Before her marriage, she'd learned that Chogyal (as she calls him throughout) was seeing another just-met woman--and meant to get off to Brussels to see her whenever he could. In Sikkim, she's highhatted by his soignÉe sister; friendless, and without purpose or function. ""Upstairs in my room I listen to Joan Baez records and cry."" For company, she keeps Chogyal's six-year-old daughter Yangchen home from school in India; for salvation, she redecorates their ""small, shabby house"" (then poses for photographers ""à la Jackie Kennedy""). In time, she'll occupy herself with Yangchen's school and promoting local handicrafts (to the point--another humorous bit--that ""Sikkimese flags are flying on both sides of Fifth Avenue""). She has two children, and likes it best when the house is filled with kids: his two boys and Yangchen, older now, home from school: ""I love being in the middle, the Ma Kettle/Ethel Kennedy of this group."" Then, two pages later: ""It's the last straw. He threw my record player out the window."" External pressures keep them together--the constant threat that divided Sikkim will be engulfed by India. And when this comes to pass, in 1973--and she is vilified in a Newsweek article as an overambitious American--she takes the children and leaves. . . to set up housekeeping (with one rug) in New York, to learn to shop, cook, drive a car, to prove her ""determination to survive."" A curio, but natural curiosity (plus the woman's angle, hyped) will do a lot for it.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980