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Kaye's new raj adventure was published 20 years ago in much-abridged form, and now, with all of the original text restored, it's nearly as corpulent as her successful The Far Pavilions (1978)--less dressy perhaps (more muskets than maharajahs, more politics than palaces), but rippling with momentous activity. The prime focus here is the long-smoldering attraction between English-Spanish gentlewoman Winter and Captain Alex Randall, aide to the loutish Commissioner of India's Lunjore province, Conway Barton--a romance that flares up to a white heat as the Mutiny of 1857 by Indian sepoys and villagers consumes a major part of the colonial nation. Winter, born in India but raised in an alien-seeming England, was ""promised"" to Conway when she was an undiscriminating eleven, so, in spite of straight talk from Alex (who squires her to India), Winter marries the drunken Conway in haste, refusing to discard her childhood image of him. She's all too soon disillusioned, of course, but she makes do, while Alex takes on the English military establishment, warning of doom to come in the wake of English stupidity and callousness. Alex seems to be everywhere at once, sleuthing and shooting, picking up clues to rebellion plots in the making, and matching wits with a much-respected Brahmin enemy who orchestrates a local uprising. At the height of the carnage, Alex and Winter will have a brief jungle idyll as they escape, only to be held prisoner with others at Winter's childhood palace. . . until the English move in once more. Kaye again exhibits a sure knowledge of India's scenery and artifacts--there is a prodigious amount of traveling--and a memsahib's liberal view of the virtues and evils of the Crown's colonial policies and practices. In comfortable, neat prose, with copious assemblages, bright ballrooms, and grisly disasters--a solid bet for the rainy season.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1979
Publisher: St. Martin's