RAJ by Gita Mehta
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At last, a historical that takes a fresh perspective on India under the British Raj, offering not the usual vaporous Englishwoman adrift on the subcontinent, but a portrait of the momentous changes that swept across the country from the point of view of a maharaja's daughter. Tracing the life of an Indian princess from 1897 (Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee) to partition and independence in 1947, Mehta (nonfiction: Karma Cola, 1979) demonstrates the amazing excesses of the maharajas, as well as their impossible position, wedged as they were between the demanding English and the unstoppable agents of Reform--Jinnah, Nehru, and Gandhi. Mehta's princess, Jaya of the Kingdom of Balmer, grows up with contradictory voices in her ear--English tutors proclaiming the virtues of cricket and Pax Britannica, and her father, the maharaja, bristling against the injustice of the Raj. Her elder brother dies with the Balmer Lancers in the Great War; her father is assassinated; and her mother, impeded from following her husband into his funeral pyre, becomes a sati mata (or Hindu saint), leaving Jaya to be married away to one of India's oldest kingdoms, Sirpur. But the Maharaja of Sirpur wants a westernized wife, so Jaya dutifully learns to mix martinis, is taken to london where she must "curtsy like a servant in front of the king of the untouchables," and even buys off her husband's blackmailing lover at a moment in history when she realizes that the royal princess of India can ill afford discrediting. As regent, she holds Sirpur together until there remains nothing else to do but turn democrat. This shines both with moments of intimate poignancy, and a sense of the sweep of Indian affairs. An engrossing read, and strong first novel.

ISBN: 671-43248-6
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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