A graceful, elaborate and dizzying tale of innocents yearning for home.
Moss has been a firsthand witness to the fading glory of the British diaspora in exotic locales like India, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Here, he draws heavily on a childhood spent in India to recreate the experiences of expatriates repatriated against their will, caught between a glorious spiritual home and the draw of Queen and country. Durbar Court, a â€œrambling, colonnaded bungalow built on palatial proportions and set on a rise backed by a shallow valley,” was built by the now-deceased Gwyn Jones as both a tribute to his beloved India and a refuge from the encroaching civilization of England. Run with both strength and self-doubt by his widow, Dolly, it has become home to a ragtag collection of extended family, Indian exiles and other odd characters. When Tom Swain, a copywriter with ghosts of his own, is driven into the estate by a couple of wild peacocks, it changes his life forever, forcing him to choose between a life lived in memory or in reality. Moss packs the narrative with far too many characters to follow: The vivacious Dolly, Tom’s paramour Clare Truscott and an intense Indian intellectual named Ravi Shapoor are among the most compelling of this motley crew, but gaggles of unruly children, lunatic relatives and quirky servants muddle the story. Despite the heavy character traffic, however, the author’s prose is classical, elegant and oddly moving in the manner of Isak Dinesen or E.M. Forster. Moss fosters a charming colonial memory that will speak clearly to anyone who’s been away from home a long time.
A romanticized, tragic remembrance of well-loved experiences.