IN THE FOREST AT MIDNIGHT by Rita Pratt Smith

IN THE FOREST AT MIDNIGHT

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Pratt makes her debut with this gentle novel--the story of an English girl's coming-of-age in postcolonial India. Megan Manning is living a sheltered life in Madras with her grandpa, dottering great-aunt, devoutly Catholic mother, and rather more acquiescent father. But things change suddenly for Megan when she's shipped off to Aunt Letty, in Nerbudapur, whose marriage to an Indian doctor has made her the family disgrace. Megan's father has contracted leprosy, though it's kept secret from her, leaving the girl to assume he's left her mother and returned to England. At Letty's house, Megan gradually learns different, disconcerting secrets--that Letty has turned agoraphobic due to a failed pregnancy and subsequent suicide attempt; that Letty's husband plays around; and that their neighbor, Colonel Bhatt, prefers men to his beautiful wife, Nila. Megan also comes to appreciate things Indian, to feel that Sanskrit chants sound like the Roman Catholic liturgy, to love a young Indian law student named Ajai. When she becomes pregnant by him, she must decide whether to marry and have the child. Assisting at the birth of Nila's baby helps her to see the light of Ajai's love. In the end, even her parents are reconciled to the union, though raising her daughter while writing features for the Nerbudapur Times makes Megan realize that "Marrying is easy. Housekeeping is hard." Megan is such a frank and accepting girl that, through her voice, the fascinations of the Indian setting fade. But Pratt's secondary characters--Aunt Letty and Colonel Bhatt--are finely drawn, giving this simple story its principal satisfactions.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1989
ISBN: 1-55611-131-2
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:




MORE BY RITA PRATT SMITH