The Kashmir Shawl: A Novel

The Kashmir Shawl: A Novel

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by Rosie Thomas
     
 

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Winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Epic Romantic Novel Award.

For more than three decades, Rosie Thomas has enthralled readers around the world. Now, in The Kashmir Shawl, her most ambitious book yet, Thomas sweeps through time and place, and her readers will discover in this novel a captivating, romantic epic--an

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Overview

Winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Epic Romantic Novel Award.

For more than three decades, Rosie Thomas has enthralled readers around the world. Now, in The Kashmir Shawl, her most ambitious book yet, Thomas sweeps through time and place, and her readers will discover in this novel a captivating, romantic epic--an irresistible story of enduring love and memory.

It is the eve of 1941 and World War II is engulfing the globe. Newlywed Nerys Watkins leaves rural Britain to accompany her husband on a missionary posting to India, but when he leaves her in the exotic lakeside of Srinagar to take on a complicated mission elsewhere, she discovers a new world. Here, in the heart of Kashmir, the British dance, flirt, and gossip against the backdrop of war and Nerys soon becomes caught up in a dangerous liaison. By the time she is reunited with her husband, she is a very different woman. .

Years later, Nery’s granddaughter Mair Ellis clears out her dead father’s house and finds an exquisite shawl--a kaleidoscope of silvery blues and greens. Wrapped in the folds of this delicate object is a lock of a child’s curly hair. With nothing else to go on, Mair decides to trace her roots back to Kashmir, embarking on a quest that will change her own life forever. .

In this marvelous novel by a writer whose novels Marie-Claire called “beautifully written” and “a treat,” the inimitable Rosie Thomas is at her very best. A sweeping, multigenerational tale of marriage and isolation, The Kashmir Shawl is a tribute to the power of finding love in the most magical, unexpected places.

REVIEWS:
“Mystery, intrigue, a great love, passion, and a terrible sorrow all come together to make this a very touching and satisfying read.” --Barbara Taylor Bradford, bestselling author of Letter from a Stranger

“A master storyteller.” --Cosmopolitan

“Rosie Thomas has the rare and wonderful ability to create stories and characters that take you instantly into another world--one you are most reluctant to leave until you have reached the end.” --Penny Vincenzi, bestselling author of No Angel

“Thomas writes with a sharp nib, not a dull computer key. She is neither mawkish nor squeamish, but full of fresh images.” --Washington Post Book World

"Thomas brings India to glorious life in this utterly engrossing and beautifully written epic novel, a best seller in Britain. She moves the story from past to present with ease, never allowing one story line to overwhelm another. Her characters are so interesting and realistic that readers will be reluctant to let them go. Fans of Joanna Trollope and Mary Wesley will enjoy this moving work." --Library Journal (starred review)

“A finely wrought story of emotional and geographical displacement . . . The atmospheric detail brings the culture and gorgeous scenery of Kashmir to vivid life while also hinting at the political and religious strife that will soon overcome the region as India gains its independence.” --Kirkus Reviews

“Thomas weaves a love mystery in her latest work heavy on rich characters and scenery . . . [A] compelling scandalous tale in 1940s India, set against the dynamic backdrop of Kashmir.” --Publishers Weekly.

“An avid traveler and thorough researcher, Thomas brings the flavors and colors of India to life with vivid detail and develops characters so real one feels a kinship. An engrossing, intelligent, and satisfying read, this publication is the American debut of a UK best-seller.” --Booklist

“A gorgeous treat . . . Superbly written, marvelously descriptive and especially evocative of the war years.” --Choice

“Rosie Thomas writes with beautiful, effortless prose, and shows a rare compassion and a real understanding of the nature of love.” --The Times

“Spellbinding . . . Honest and compassionate, [Thomas’s] books are a delight from start to finish.” --Daily Express

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Thomas (Lovers & Newcomers), best known as a romance author, weaves a love mystery in her latest work that’s light on plot, but heavy on rich characters and scenery. While cleaning out her deceased father’s house, Mair Ellis discovers an old shawl that belonged to her grandmother, along with a curious lock of hair. Mair, a single woman who has floated through life, is moved to find out more about the shawl, the hair, and her grandmother Nerys, who once lived as a Christian missionary in India. She travels to Kashmir, where Nerys’s story unravels in extensive flashbacks, as her then young grandmother’s loves, pain, and enduring friendships take center stage. The premise of an old shawl triggering such an extensive journey is a weak construct and advances the story only at a molasses pace. Moreover, Mair never fully reaches her potential as an interesting protagonist. Though Thomas falls short in providing a present-day storyline, she makes up for it with the compelling, scandalous tale of Nerys in 1940s India, set against the dynamic backdrop of Kashmir. Agent: Jonathan Lloyd, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Thomas's novels are beautifully written." —Marie Claire

 "A master storyteller." —Cosmopolitan

 "Rosie Thomas writes with beautiful, effortless prose, and shows a rare compassion and a real understanding of the nature of love."  —The Times

Library Journal
Nerys Watkins is a missionary’s wife in 1941 India. When her husband leaves her with friends in order to pursue a more arduous mission alone, the newlywed Nerys finds herself part of British colonial society in the exotic city of Srinagar. She makes friends—and decisions that will change her irrevocably. In present-day Wales, Mair Ellis is going through her late father’s things when she comes across a beautiful Kashmir shawl that had belonged to her grandmother Nerys. Wrapped in the shawl is a lock of hair. Curious, and at loose ends after selling her childhood home, Mair travels to Kashmir in search of information about the grandmother she never knew.

Verdict Thomas (Lovers and Newcomers) brings India to glorious life in this utterly engrossing and beautifully written epic novel, a best seller in Britain. She moves the story from past to present with ease, never allowing one story line to overwhelm another. Her characters are so interesting and realistic that readers will be reluctant to let them go. Fans of Joanna Trollope and Mary Wesley will enjoy this moving work. [Library marketing.]—Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline P.L., MA(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
An intricately woven shawl is both memento and metaphor in Thomas' meditative transgenerational tale. In Wales, after the death of her father, Mair finds among his effects a finely crafted multicolored pashmina shawl, which her grandmother Nerys, who died before Mair's birth, acquired during her days as a Presbyterian missionary in Kashmir. The origins of the shawl and the lock of hair folded in it must hold the key to Nerys' veiled past, Mair assumes, and so she journeys to the Kashmiri town of Srinagar where Nerys lived during World War II. The story alternates between Mair's present travels and Nerys' Srinigar sojourn. Nerys' straight-laced husband, Evan, is away preaching, and Nerys awaits his return in a houseboat owned by fellow British expats, Myrtle and Archie. Nerys and Myrtle are drawn into the dilemma of a young Englishwoman, Caroline, whose marriage is celibate due to her husband's closeted homosexuality. Caroline has had a forbidden affair with Ravi, an Indian nobleman, and is pregnant. Myrtle finds an ingenious way to hide the pregnancy from the insular, scandal-attuned European community, and from Ravi. Nerys, also love-starved thanks to Evan's prudery, has a joyfully adulterous affair with a Swiss mountaineer and magician, Rainer, who helps her rescue the children of a dishonored and destitute woman who made a Kani shawl very like the one Mair found. (The prosperous but labor-intensive cottage industry of Kani shawls began, before WWII, to lose out to factory-made imitations, impoverishing the true practitioners.) When Mair encounters nonagenarian Caroline in Srinigar, she is now very close to uncovering all the braided and colorful secrets the shawl represents. The atmospheric detail brings the culture and gorgeous scenery of Kashmir to vivid life while also hinting at the political and religious strife that will soon overcome the region as India gains its independence. Although the narrative drags in spots, and Nair's anticlimactic investigation is less compelling than Nerys' adventures, this is a finely wrought story of emotional and geographical displacement.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781468307184
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
01/10/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
103,966
File size:
987 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"Thomas's novels are beautifully written." --Marie Claire

 "A master storyteller." --Cosmopolitan

 "Rosie Thomas writes with beautiful, effortless prose, and shows a rare compassion and a real understanding of the nature of love."  --The Times

Meet the Author

Rosie Thomas is the author of numerous critically acclaimed, bestselling novels, and has twice won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Born in a small village in northern Wales, Thomas discovered a love of traveling and mountaineering when her children were grown. In the years since, she has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas, competed in the Peking to Paris car rally, and trekked in the footsteps of Shackleton on South Georgia Island.

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The Kashmir Shawl 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
What a story Rosie Thomas was written, she had me walking with the Characters through the streets in India. I could almost smell the goats, as was described. We experience the life with the Raj, and the slums. The story begins with the death of her father, Mair finds a beautiful Kashmir Shawl among the belongings. She also finds an old envelope with some hair stored in it. Thus begins her quest for answers, and her trip to India. There are actually two stories told here, some of it we know but Mair never has all the answers. Mair's Grandmother Nerys and Grandfather Evan are missionaries to India, with WWII going on in 1941, we are about to experience life there. Nerys spends time with Myrtle, and Carolyn, you will enjoy the fun times they make out adversity. I really recommend this as a Historical read, so very interesting. Even when Mair goes there, there is fighting between the Hindu's and the Muslims. So very sad. Putting this combined story together is a real page turner, and even though the book is a bit long, it was a quick read. I received this book through The Bookreporter giveaway, and was not required to give a positive review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderfully written. It makes you feel what it was to live in India in those times. We sadly see the changes happening in Srinagar after the war. The characters are full of life and live every moment intensely. A great story. Hard to put the book down. I loved it and I recommend it to all historical fiction lovers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story did not have an ending and took me a while to get into the story, probably after chapter 4 it became interesting. Many things remained a mystery. If you like the books that leave a lot for imagination, then you should read it, if not don't even start. The book tells few stories. The main story is about Mair trying to find an "owner" of the beautiful shawl and a lock of hair that she found among the belongings of her father after his death. She did find the "owner" but the "owner" was not convinced that these belong to her. A lot is left for the readers to complete. The rest of the little stories in the book all remained a mystery. Did Mair and her new love become a couple? Did Nerys's love, Rainer actually die? The book is not as good as heard from some people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have read lately. Rich in historical and setting beauty. Loved it.
Florida-Chick More than 1 year ago
What a treasure! I loved this book. Then and now threads were beautifully woven to create a masterpiece. The generational back and forth was not hard to follow....I found myself looking forward to it, and how it all came together at the end. Remarkable writing. Definitely recommend this book and look forward to her new book coming out in the fall.
Sophronia More than 1 year ago
Interesting cultural detail for the two timelines. The story held my interest from the beginning. Author did not hurry to the "next big thing." Plot twists naturally, with many surprises. I look forward to the next book by this author.
booklovercm More than 1 year ago
Let me say first of all that by the time I got to the end of this book, I was totally engrossed. There were times, particularly in the first several chapters, that I was annoyed at the skipping back and forth of time periods. It finally became very clear, that this was necessary for the plot to come together. There is intrigue, romance, curiosity, history and geography all coming together to tell this multi-generational story. I gave this only 4 instead of 5 stars, because it was rather slow atarting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rosie Thomas has written this story in a way that immediately draws the reader in. Her descriptions of places and characters keep you there. A wonderful tale from beginning to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I spent my weekend reading this book. It has been a long time since a story has held my interest like that. I loved the book and would recommend it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overall the story has good intentions but seemed to fall apart at the end. One character in particular went through an unbelievable transformation. It didn't seem like the same character at all as the story progressed. One minute she is not caring and the next she minute she cares about too much. It just didn't seem to flow right. I gave it two stars for the potential it could have had. Good plot but the storyline needs help.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good discussion in my book group.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful plot. Loved the setting. Great characters. This book is highly recommended. Another great book written about the same time period is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. Both are well researched historical fiction. Both books deserve A+++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There aren't too many books I read and immediately want to read again. This one is a definite re-read! I enjoy a little history, a little romance, a little mystery...this book had it all.
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Maria Book provided by NetGalley for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book I read my first Rosie Thomas novel THE WHITE DOVE more than two decades ago. I found it to be a memorable read, an historical novel set in the early years of the 20th century. Twenty five years later, it’s delightful to see Ms. Thomas is still penning historical works of the same, noteworthy quality. She still has that quality of producing spellbinding dialogue and even more memorable characters not to mention compulsive story lines which literally drag you in. THE KASHMIR SHAWL is both historical and contemporary. It’s the story of Mair (pron. Mayar, Welsh for Mary) Ellis, a young woman who comes to India to discover something of the unknown history of her grandmother, Nerys Watkins, the wife of a nonconformist missionary pastor. At the same time, it’s Nerys’ story too. Nerys, the eager young pastor’s wife, who took up life in the mission field some seventy years previously. Side by side, Mair and Nerys’ stories unfold. Nerys had married straight out of teacher training college. At a somewhat more mature age, Mair still hasn’t settled down although we see her sharing drinks, a long chat and an obvious attraction with Bruno, the father of a young family, the Beckers, which she meets on her travels. We sense her dismay at the growing attraction and her eagerness to put a lid on it. Mair isn’t the sort of girl who would just go after another woman’s man. The story of Nerys is visible to the reader, but not to Mair. She has to be content with some cryptic clues her grandmother has bequeathed from the past. A beautiful Kashmir shawl in a now obsolete style of work known as ‘kani’ and a lock of hair. As readers we see Nerys in the Srinagar club with her friends, fellow British Raj wives Myrtle McMinn and Caroline Bowen. Caroline’s marriage to a rough army officer is a most disappointing union, leading the vulnerable young woman to seek the love that eludes her in an affair with a young Indian man from a princely family, who is most certainly using her. It’s actually use verging on abuse, albeit of a mental kind. British but Indian born Myrtle, with her incessant cigarette smoking, her dry sense of humour and non-judgmental stance in matters of the heart, is one of the more memorable characters in the story. And dear, lovely Nerys, the ever practical pastor’s wife. Her idealistic and shy husband prays for more converts to his church while Nerys feels, without saying it out, that India has more than enough religions to keep it going and that it would be rather more practical to offer it’s teeming masses some practical way to exit from the hopeless cycle of poverty. Yet Nerys’s devotion to duty Is severely tested when she indulges in a short, discreet affair in her husband’s absence, with a Swiss mountaineer, Rainer Stamm. With Rainer, she touches the heights of passion such as she’s never experienced with her shy pastor husband, which has never amounted to more than a frantic fumble and a shy goodnight. Yet unlike her immature friend Caroline, who dreams that her Indian lover will try to claim her for his own, Nerys is adamant that she will never leave her husband. She is careful enough to employ contraception and lets her lover know that this can never be more than temporary. She, like the British of her time, knows her duty. As Myrtle puts it quite succinctly, ‘we’re wives of the Raj’, which to put it another way, means, ‘we know our role.’ Mair’s association with the Becker family ends tragically early in the narrative, after a fatal incident in Leh, in northern India. She meets Bruno Becker again towards the end of the story, and by then a lot of the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place. She’s acquired the acquaintance of the nonagenarian Caroline Bowen along with some letters and a powerful photograph. She’s guessing about Nerys’s attraction to Rainer Stamm in the way one feels something inwardly. Returning to India with Becker about a year after leaving, there is a sense of completion and that sense that a new chapter is about to start. As I live in the Gangetic Plain of north India and have visited Srinagar in the Jammu and Kashmir State, I can vouch for the authenticity of the narrative. Thomas’s descriptive prose brings north India alive. She mentions the warm ‘pheron’ coats of Kashmir. These coats are often acquired by foreigners and while most of them are made from traditional woolen cloth, I noticed that pherons are also available in a British looking tweed fabric and wondered how that could be. But now, from reading this story, I realize that the tweed pheron came into use during the British rule in India. The British had a tendency to Anglicize a lot of things and the pheron is one of them. As an historical novel, it’s painstakingly well researched. As a contemporary novel it also comes up to the mark, although I would have liked to know more about Mair as a person in her own right and not just as someone investigating her grandmother. Yes, Mair’s interesting life is also recorded, but where she goes from here intrigues me a lot. I guess I’m just hungry for more of her story. Humorous and sometimes tragic but never ever dull, this story from the times the British ruled in India held my attention until the very end. Favorite Quote: From Tibet there were trays of silver, coral and turquoise jewellery, from China painted Thermos flasks and furry nylon blankets in electric hues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book that has a lot of twists and turns! Could not put it down.
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tiffanydavis2 More than 1 year ago
 The Kashmir Shawl: A Novel, by Rosie Thomas, follows a young girl by the name of Mair.  While Mair is cleaning out her parents house after their deaths, she finds a beautiful Kashmir Shawl, a picture, and a lock of hair that sparks her interest.  She decides that she will travel to India to find out who the lock of hair belonged to, who is the picture she found, and what the shawls story was!  It turns out that the shawl was Mair's grandmother's, Nerys.  The story then goes back and forth between Mair in present day and Nerys back in the 1940's.      The author did an amazing job at taking two separate stories and weaving them together into one story with out any confusion.   I'm glad that I decided to take a chance on this amazing book.  It was a page turner from the get go.  I was so entrances with both Mair and Nerys' stories.  I found myself feeling as Mair did, just wanting to know more and understand where the shawl came from.  I would highly recommend this book  to anyone looking for a great read.  Good job to the author, I am looking forward to reading more from Rosie Thomas!  
EDL85 More than 1 year ago
“The Kashmir Shawl” is an epic that spans countries and generations, following one woman’s search to uncover the story of her grandmother. Mair and siblings are sorting through their dead father’s belongings when Mair finds a beautiful shawl, and within the shawl a lock of hair. The exquisite craftsmanship of the shawl captures Mair’s imagination, and she recalls that her grandmother, Nerys, the owner of the shawl, once lived in India with her missionary husband. Mair decides to journey to India to uncover her grandmother’s history, and her story alternates with that of Nerys as a young, newly married woman. This is an engrossing, interesting novel, and while I enjoyed both perspectives, Nerys’ was my favorite—her devotion to the two friends she makes in India, and her love and sexual awakening with Rainer, made for compelling, emotional reading. While Mair is also a good character, and I enjoyed her journeys through India, it was Nerys who really captured my attention. The author made both an exotic country and a particular era in time come alive for me. I would recommend this novel to readers who enjoy historic fiction, fiction about strong bonds between women, and romantic fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KenishaP More than 1 year ago
Mair finds a Kashmir shawl among the possessions of her recently deceased parents. A lock of hair tucked in the shawl leads the siblings to speculate as to whom the shawl belonged to. Mair, due to her lack of attachments and commitments compared to her two siblings, decides to find out more about the origins of the shawl and sets out to track down the maker and place of origin. A weird reason for an odyssey across the country, perhaps, but it's the one we are given. What follows is Mair's growth and discovery as she meets dozens of new faces, searching for the illusive origins of the shawl. The shawl itself is an absolute mystery, as no one can seem to place how it was even made. The characters are varied; native villagers, missionaries from the West, etc. There's a lot of interweaving plotlines and overarching stories, to add to the drama and sense of adventure displayed in the novel. This book is kind of a slow burn. Although the introduction captured my attention by having the characters sort through their deceased parent's possessions, it then goes on to spend a good deal of time setting up the characters and their circumstances. The lengthy book and the care the author has taken in crafting the characters will be a boon to some. I was of mixed minds; some subplots I found to be more interesting that others. I did enjoy the meticulously crafted setting of Colonial India in the 1940s. I even learned a bit about the process of crafting kashmir shawls. So I give the books credit for transporting me to a far-away place and teaching me new things, which is one reason I love to read.
lizasarusrex More than 1 year ago
This is a story of a grandmother and a granddaughter who travel the same roads, but in different time period. Mair finds a shawl made of kashmir, and a lock of hair, in her fathers belongings after he passes away. Curiosity grabs a hold of Mair causing her search back to where it came from. She knows that her grandparents were Welsh missionaries in India before and during World War II, so she packs up and sets out for India.  The beginning of this book is a bit misguided. I am not sure what the author wants me to think, since there was an abundance of descriptive words. Eventually the author changed the writing style and I found it flowed much easier.  The book begins to move back and forth between Mair and her grandmother, Nerys. Nerys experiencing and living the life as a privileged wife in the British Raj. Once the author starts writing about India, you are taken on a ride that will overwhelm all five senses. Each descriptive word helps you to understand how everything must have smelled, tasted, sounded, and felt like.  It wasn't until the author made the connection between grandmother and granddaughter, that I found myself completely interested in the book. Up until this point, I didn't dislike or like the book, I was basically neutral about it.  I loved how the author was able to interweave the stories to all come together almost as one. There was a great sense of adventure and romance in both lives of Nerys and Mair. Overall I would give this book a 4/5. I neglected one point for the confusion and jumble in the beginning of the book that originally made it hard to get into the book.