Someone commented about Paul Scott's The Birds of Paradise that India was for him not so much a ""political territory...



Someone commented about Paul Scott's The Birds of Paradise that India was for him not so much a ""political territory abandoned... as a continuing province of the heart."" This is certainly even truer here and it can also be said that few people have written about India quite as seductively, or as intelligently, with a sense of loss but also a sense of responsibility and fallibility. The jewel of the title represents tribute -- India's to the Crown; it is also the theme of an exceptionally long book, circuitous at times, but with none of the narrative irresolution of which many of Scott's books have been guilty. Here the drama moves from one character to another, from one locale (from the compound in the village to the Club at Mayapore) to another, and from various points of view as expressed directly, or indirectly through letters, extracts from memoirs, etc. The novel takes place in 1942, in the final phase of British dominion: Gandhi has Just been arrested but his nonviolent noncooperation has led to active unrest. Two incidents here are the direct result thereof: an efficient, aging mission school superintendent is attacked; and a young girl, staying with the westernized Lady Chatterjee, the niece of the former Governor, is raped by a group of ""hoodlums."" She had been in love with an Indian who is also incriminated in the assault and she hopes that the child to come will be his... The novel is a slow-moving one, filled with a tremendous number of ideas, views, speculations imposed in an attempt to convey the contradictions between not only England and India, but within India itself, a cosmos in which there are many circles within circles, mystical, social, political. It is certainly Paul Scott's major work and it has already been established that he is a thoughtful and tasteful writer, even though he has never achieved the readership some of his books have deserved and many of the reviewers have indicated.

Pub Date: June 10, 1966


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1966