THE GOLDEN ORIOLE: India in Blood and Color by Raleigh Trevelyan
Kirkus Star

THE GOLDEN ORIOLE: India in Blood and Color

Email this review


A stylish, erudite, witty, and ultimately moving investigation of the British Raj by a writer (Princes Under the Volcano, Rome '44) whose family, their friends, acquaintances, (and detractors) played central roles in this often shameful, sometimes surprisingly humane, period of Western colonial domination of the Indian subcontinent. Part family reminiscence, part history, part travel journal, Trevelyan's latest work is a civilized and balanced look at a subject too often treated with excessive sentimentality or sensationalism. Gathering material from five trips to India, Pakistan, Burma, and Afganistan that he undertook between 1977 and 1984, Trevelyan weaves a colorful tapestry from personal reminiscences (he was born while his father was an officer of a penal colony on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, and raised in various British garrison towns throughout India); family diaries and letters dating back to the early 19th century; and the writings of such noted visitors as Thomas Babington Macaulay, E.M. Forster, and J.R. Ackerley. Wisely, the author couches what proves to be a complex and potentially confusing narrative in very human details, vivifying his story with the personal reactions--heartwarming, humorous, and horrendous--of the participants. Trevelyan exhibits a sincere appreciation of the fulfillments and a good-natured tolerance for the frustrations he discovers during his own peregrinations. His is not travel writing of the ""sunsets and superlatives"" school, but an urbane yet sympathetic look at a new India still marked, for good and ill, by the British past. Highly recommended not only for admirers of the films Gandhi and A Passage to India, and the TV-series Jewel of the Crown, but for anyone in search of superb writing and perceptive insights into a fascinating era.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Viking