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“Moore is a wonderful writer with a sensuous style. . . . [One Last Look] takes on the quality of a feverish dream.” --The Baltimore Sun
“How marvelous is a book that educates but does not preach. . . . [A] cautionary tale for smart women . . . and dumb men . . . but the beauty of the prose and the complexity of the narrative here far outweigh any edifying messages.” --The Washington Post
“A beauitiful and powerful novel that records one woman’s experience while illuminating a world of imperial folly and colonial rapacity and stupidity.” --The Boston Globe
“Vertinginous. . . .The sense of passing through a distant, phantasmagorical place with a curious and perceptive guide, is undeniable.” --The Seattle Times
“It is the secret world of women that Moore excels at painting, a world of unspoken truths and oblique connections.” —Time Out New York
“[A] stranger, extoic, ungraspable place. . . . Moore is an extraordinarily gifted conjurer of weather, smells and sickness; riches, bliasters and bugs, her words steam directly off the page.” --Chicago Tribune
“The descriptive prose leaves one feeling the hot, dusty days and torrential monsoons....Moore’s image of saffron-tinged India will have readers pulling out their Baedeker’s and booking passage on the next ship sailing for foreign climes.” —Library Journal
“[C]aptivating...fascinating...As Eleanor writes in her diary, ‘The writing of women is always read in the hope of discovering women’s secrets’; Eleanor and her creator reveal just enough glimpses to keep readers transfixed.” —Publishers Weekly
“[R]ich, lush...and wonderfully satisfying.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[E]leanor is mesmerizing....” —Booklist
“[E]vocative...” —Harper’s Bazaar
“An enormous accomplishment–vivid and precise, evocative and alluring, reflective of impressive scholarship. . . . Moore is an extraordinarily gifted conjurer of weather, smells and sickness; riches, blisters and bugs. Her words stream directly off the page.”–The Chicago Tribune
“Splendid. . . . A rueful farewell to an age of conquest and colonization that–despite its period trappings–looks peculiarly like our own. A deeply moving story of empowerment and loss.”–O, The Oprah Magazine
“Lyrical. . . . [Filled with] lushly described landscape and coyly revealed Victorian sexual eccentricities.”–Entertainment Weekly
“What Moore has done is to squeeze out of her peppery observations a nascent feminism and a covert sexuality. She heats Eden up.” --The New York Times Book Review
“Chilling. . . . [Moore] gives Eleanor a rich interior life and a mordant humor.” --Vogue
“[Moore] excels at evoking time and place–the dresses and the narrative voice just so, the moans of the mango bird in the tree exquisitely described.”–The New Yorker
“Breathtaking. . . . An engaging, luscious read. The characters are richly drawn . . . [and] rise effortlessly from the page.” —The Oregonian
“The accomplishment of One Last Look is a gradual unfolding of sensual detail that is truly transporting.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Sensual steamy prose . . . masterfully evok[es] the likely sounds, smells and sights of early-19th-century life in colonial India.” —Houston Chronicle
“It is the secret world of women that Moore excels at painting, a world of unspoken truths and oblique connections. . . . It is a measure of Moore’s skill that they never are [discovered].” —Time Out New York
1. What is the effect of telling the story through Eleanor’s diary entries? How would the novel have been different if it had employed a more conventional narration?
2. Early in the novel, Eleanor wonders “if generations of privilege have conspired to inure me to this place; I see all the naked creatures squatting at the doors of their huts and feel nothing but disgust” [p. 29]. Why would her privilege prevent her from feeling compassion for these “creatures”? How does her attitude toward the suffering and poverty of India change over the course of her time there?
3. “I have thought from time to time in my life as to what it means to be female,” Eleanor writes, “but never before did I consider what it signifies to be English; now I think of it endlessly” [p. 87]. Why does being in India make her so conscious of her Englishness? How does it change her view of England and English imperialism?
4. Bishop Maxwell-Lewis asks Eleanor if she believes in the three C’s: Commerce, Christianity, and Civilization. In what ways have the British used these concepts to justify their domination of India?
5. Eleanor and Henry think that Harriet has “gone all jungly” [p. 81]. What do they mean by this? How is Harriet’s response to India deeper and more intimate than theirs? Why is she so enchanted by the jungle? How does living in the jungle change her view of English civilization, its comforts and moral restrictions?
6. What kind of relationship does Eleanor have with her brother Henry? Why is she so attached to him? How are we to understand the sexual dimension of their relationship?
7. What are the specific motives for Henry and Lafayette coming to India? How are their plans complicated and frustrated by the reality they encounter there?
8. Eleanor wonders, “The writing of women is always read in the hope of discovering women’s secrets. Will my secrets be discovered?” [p. 239]. Is it true that women’s writing is read with this purpose? Why would that be so? Has Eleanor revealed her secrets in her writing? Is reading another person’s diaries always an act of voyeurism?
9. As she prepares to leave India, Eleanor tells the Bishop: “I myself can no longer distinguish between what is real and what is chimera, yet this feeling that I have, this elation of toiling through isolation and wonder, will soon be gone and I will mourn for the rest of my life its going!” [p. 277]. Why has her experience in India made it impossible for Eleanor to tell dream and reality apart? Why does she feel she will mourn its loss for the rest of her life?
10. Is One Last Look primarily a personal or a political novel? How does Susanna Moore balance these aspects of the book?
11. One Last Look is set in India in the 1830s. In what ways does it speak to our own time and circumstance? Can the novel be read as a cautionary tale about feeling superior to and exploiting other cultures? How relevant is the British overthrow of the Afghan leader Dost Mohammed in the novel to the current situation in Afghanistan and Iraq?
12. At the end of the novel, Eleanor tells Harriet: “I am so thankful for all that has happened, not least because it has cured me of almost everything I once believed” [p. 286]. What beliefs has Eleanor been cured of? How has her experience in India fundamentally changed her? How is she a different person when she returns to England?
Posted January 27, 2004
I don't know whether I'd recommend this book to everyone. It took me about a week to read, highly unusual for me, because it was so slow. I almost felt the pages sticking together from the descriptions of the humidity though. And the dust, that huge caravan, but it needed filling out. Sometimes I just did not get the connections.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.