GET READY FOR BATTLE by H. Prawer Jhabvala


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Enter the Delhi household of Gulzari Lal, prosperous and dynamic dealer in properties. There find the master, his bountiful mistress Kusum, an officer's widow who desires the propriety and household that go with marriage -- and who has decided to press Lal to divorce his wife by maintaining her distance from him...In residence is Vishnu, Lal's rather blank and bland son who is not greatly attached to his wife Mala, a slow-speaking, prickly injured beauty who is offhandedly abused with neglect and misses her Bombay girlhood friends; and their watchful girl-child Pritti. Apart, in her brother's house, lives Sarla Devi, wife of Gulzari Lal, who long ago separated herself from worldly and fami matters to pursue peace through fighting the world's ills. She does not object to divorce; rather, it is her brother Brij Mojan, jealous of family honor and mourning past grandeur, who must be swayed to acceptance by the redoubtable Kusum. Action is engaged through the divorce advances and over the fate of Bunda Bisti, a property Sarla Devi is trying to save for its ragged residents and which Gulzari Lal intends to vacates so that he can develop the adjacent plot. The unsettled Vishnu seeks independence and has a rather embarrassing brush with Mala's skinny friend Sumi. All ends well: Vishnu decides to enter on his own business venture; Mala is joyous over the prospect of having Vishnu to herself in a dull place; Kusum has her status and household; Gulzari Lal, Kusum; Sarla Devi, her next battle. Once again, in this well-mannered comedy, the author evokes a society tactile in its reality, investing representative individuals with irrefutable life, balancing an exploitation of their foibles with indications of nobility. If her conversations in counterpoint, her reprises form a pattern measured with over-obvious design, they are cunningly accomplished. Perhaps more mannered than her earlier novels, but with the same intelligence and insight at work.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 1962
Publisher: Norton