THE RAVI LANCERS by John Masters


Email this review


For over three decades Masters has touched here and there on British/Indian contretemps circa World War I, and this is a long novel dappled with just-yesterday insights about ""two strong men [who] stand face to face."" British Captain Warren Bateman had reinforced Prince Krishna's admiration of British ways -- from cricket to the gentle pleasures of ancestral acres. However, when Krishna's Ravi Lancers actually get to the European front, it becomes obvious that the Indians are expected to present themselves as dark-carbon copies of their British ""superiors"" and Krishna realizes that ""the Gods of Europe do not speak Hindu."" While Krishna draws closer to his people, flouting repressive and (what are to the Indians) meaningless orders, questioning the law beneath the letter, Bateman takes refuge from doubt and the terrible carnage around him in a supra-patriotic rigidity. But there are other forces undermining the foundations of the Englishman's castle -- his wife is having an affair with a pacifist/socialist who is influencing the locals and Bateman's sister Diana and Krishna plan to marry. Bateman's suicide drives them apart, and at the close Krishna -- knowing now how hollow are alliances with stereotypes -- whether people or countries -- attempts to recover the love he once felt for Bateman and Diana, his prototypical Englishwoman. With the exception of two erotic episodes this has a late-afternoon ambiance and the characters have a pleasant recognition value.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1972
Publisher: Doubleday