THE LOST VILLAGE by David Glover


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An odd, intriguing, finally unsatisfying first novel from Britain: the doomed idealism of a cheerful (yet never quite lifelike) young Englishman in contemporary India. Edward Priestman, 29, born in India but raised in England, comes to head the English department at the isolated Karatpore Public School--full of rather naive notions about exotic India, full of vaguely noble ambitions. Immediately, however, Edward is being courted, fawned over, and prized for his Englishness--by a rather pathetic clutch of Indians and Anglo-Indians: timid, perhaps homosexual teacher Panwar; earthier colleague Arun; Arun's sometime mistress, ""dumpy dark Miss Willcox, Christian and of low caste extraction""; the bitter school nurse; the local rajah, fallen on hard times; and a visiting Maharajah--suave, snobbish, Anglicized. Instead of finding spiritual/pastoral India, then, Edward is soon surrounded by petty gossip and middle-class hypocrisies. (There's a scandal when he goes skinny-dipping in front of Miss Willcox.) Then the clash of values becomes even more apparent--when, on a solo stroll in the hills, Edward comes upon a village of starving children: no one back in Karatpore believes Edward's story; his attempts to re-locate the village all fail; he tries, meanwhile, to work for improved social conditions in the area. (""Would it ever stop, he wondered, this nagging need to improve himself, improve the world?"") And finally, after yet another idealistic effort--teaching English to an Untouchable girl--turns melodramatically sour, Edward goes mad. . . and back to England. Was his sighting of the starving village, then, an hallucination? Or perhaps a Twilight Zone-ish vision of India's sorry future? Glover never quite decides, using Edward throughout more for thematic purposes than as a full-bodied character. So, while there's interest and some ironic amusement in Glover's small sketches of post-Raj India (the persistent Anglo/Indian identity-crisis, the post-colonial corruption), the story itself is soon revealed to be a thin parable, more than a little stiff and murky in the telling.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's