MANDALAY by Alexandra Jones


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A first novel, set in 19th-century Burma, that is a lurid melodrama peopled with one-dimensional characters involved in absurd situations. Angela Featherstone is traveling to Mandalay to bring Christianity to the Buddhists of Burma, when she and her companions are waylaid by bandits in the mountain passes of the Himalayas. Meanwhile, the vicious Queen of Burma condemns handsome American trader, Nathan de Veres-Vorne, to prison for smuggling rubies. Angela, after being raped by the bandit-leader, kills him and engineers a daring escape. Nathan escapes, too, in time to warn two crown princes that the Queen plans to murder them along with her late husband's 46 other sons, so she can rule through the malleable Prince Thibaw. Angela finds a refuge with her Aunt, a schoolteacher in a remote province, and befriends Minthami, a native princess, who is married to--guess who?--Nathan. Following a tiger hunt, during which Angela is attacked by a tiger and rescued by Nathan, they return to find the village ravaged and Minthami and the kids missing. Turns out the six Burmese students were royal princes smuggled to safety by Nathan. Nathan and Angela travel to Mandalay--with time for one passionate, sexual encounter--so Nathan can rescue his wife from the Queen. Angela shaves her head and becomes a Buddhist nun, while Nathan opens a successful emporium--but their paths cross often through the next tumultuous years, during which the British invade and establish a protectorate. Although the backdrop of Mandalay is exotic and ripe for illuminating observations on British colonialism, here it remains a backdrop for the posturings of shallow characters who speak in contemporary colloquialisms (""What've you been up to?"") and for demeaning sketches of natives who talk like this: ""Sillee fellow, sillee fellow you have sense not even in place where you sit upon.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1988
Publisher: Villard/Random House