“A beautiful, haunting love story, set against a simmering backdrop of religious violence and political turmoil.” Publishers Weekly
“Twenty-three-year-old narrator Isabel Webb is a spunky Englishwoman [in a] dangerous love affair in a novel [wherein] much is possible.” Lorraine Adams, The Washington Post
“A fanciful embroidering of the life of [the author's] grandmother, [reinvented as Isabel,] . . . whose very body becomes a battleground for the dueling forces of imperial rule and native independence.” Elle
In her sweeping ninth novel, Slaughter loosely retells the story of her maternal grandmother, who moved to India after WWI with her military husband and ended up in an insane asylum at age 30. In 1920, Isabel Herbert, the fictional protagonist, escapes the war's ghosts by marrying and accompanying her distant husband, Neville, to India and is immediately seduced by the country's "voluptuous grandeur"-and by the titular black Englishman, Sam Singh, an Oxford-educated Indian doctor ("I learned a long time ago that an Indian is black"). Their affair, as Isabel writes in a letter to Sam, "will take us to the limits of our courage," and both suffer for it-in addition to a thousand small injustices, Isabel is attacked by her cuckolded husband and nearly sent to an asylum, and Sam is unfairly arrested and brutalized in connection with a terrorist attack. Slaughter tells a beautiful, haunting love story, set against a simmering backdrop of religious violence and political turmoil. Her novel is filled with trenchant observations about class, sex, imperialism and especially race, but she sometimes drives home her points too bluntly, as when Isabel muses: "Would I desire him if his skin were ebony.... What's the exact shade of rejection, anyway, and when does otherness become revulsion?" Despite the occasional slide into didacticism, this is a moving and powerful tale. Agent, Betsy Lerner at the Gernert Company. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The Hindu proverb "I went in search of love and lost myself" opens Slaughter's captivating love story and succinctly states what her protagonist pursues. Fleeing the loss of her lover in the Great War, the Welsh-born Isabel finds herself in a mismatched marriage to a career soldier, Neville, and crosses the seas to Britain's Jewel of the Crown. Intrigued by the exotic allure of the East, Isabel gradually abandons traditional mores, adopts the sari, undertakes learning Hindi, and is immediately seduced by India and the elegant, Oxford-educated Dr. Samreth Singh. Despite warnings from family, friends, and servants, Isabel and Sam pursue their forbidden relationship and are thus forced to confront racism, religious tensions, ethnic violence, brutality, and colonialism in India in the 1920s. Strong-willed and empowered by their convictions about humanity and loyalty, each confronts personal and societal obstacles to honor their sense of commitment and definition of self. This gripping novel is recommended for all collections.-Sofia A. Tangalos, SUNY at Buffalo Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Love crosses the color line, in the India of the British Raj. A young Welshwoman arrives in India in 1920 with her newly married husband, a professional soldier. Theirs is a pragmatic union, not a romance, and when the woman meets an Indian doctor-a high-caste Hindu, Oxford-educated, fabulously rich, intensely idealistic-they fall passionately in love. After many separations and ordeals (the doctor is tortured by the Brits, the woman survives a knife attack by her vengeful husband) and many changes of locale (a dreary barracks bungalow, the gorgeous replica of an English country house, idyllic Jammu, wild, anarchic Peshawar), the lovers find refuge in the remote tea hills of Assam. That's the storyline of Slaughter's (Dreams of the Kalahari, 1987, etc.) ninth novel, and it looks inviting, possible grist for the Merchant/Ivory mill. Up close, however, there are problems. Isabel Herbert needs to leave Europe and the stench of a war that claimed her childhood sweetheart. But with her money and looks, couldn't she have found a better mate than Neville Webb, a lowly sergeant and "lout" (Isabel's word)? And in caste- and class-conscious India, isn't Dr. Sam Singh slumming when he takes up with Isabel? That's for starters. Husband Neville departs for the North-West Frontier to fight Afghans, leaving Isabel conveniently on her own, able to slip out of the constricting web of barracks society. It's all too easy, even for a free spirit like Isabel, as is her flight to Delhi to become a doctor, with no thought of the marital repercussions. Neville does catch up with her, but the other major plot developments occur offstage: The brutal communal violence in which Sam's wife dies, and a bomb attackaimed at the Viceroy, which leads to Sam's imprisonment and torture (his father is an arms merchant involved with terrorists). The jerky narrative pauses often to reflect on Sam's dual nature (black and English) and the age-old paradox of India: extraordinary beauty, abject misery. Great potential, clumsy execution.