The Far Pavilions

The Far Pavilions

by M. M. Kaye

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312151256
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/15/1997
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 960
Sales rank: 107,098
Product dimensions: 5.53(w) x 8.17(h) x 1.64(d)

About the Author

M.M. Kaye was a British author who was born in India and spent much of her childhood and adult life there. She became world famous with the publication of her monumental bestseller The Far Pavilions. She is also the author of a series of mysteries, the bestselling Trade Wind and Shadow of the Moon, as well as a three volume autobiography.

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The Far Pavilions


By M. M. Kaye

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1978 M. M. Kaye
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08929-8



CHAPTER 1

Ashton Hilary Akbar Pelham-Martyn was born in a camp near the crest of a pass in the Himalayas, and subsequently christened in a patent canvas bucket.

His first cry competed manfully with the snarling call of a leopard on the hillside below, and his first breath had been a lungful of the cold air that blew down from the far rampart of the mountains, bringing with it a clean scent of snow and pine-needles to thin the reek of hot lamp-oil, the smell of blood and sweat, and the pungent odour of pack-ponies.

Isobel had shivered as the icy draught lifted the tent-flap and swayed the flame in the smoke-grimed hurricane lamp, and listening to her son's lusty cries had said weakly: 'He doesn't sound like a premature baby, does he? I suppose I – I must have – miscalculated ...'

She had: and it was a miscalculation that was to cost her dear. There are few of us, after all, who are called upon to pay for such errors with our lives.

By the standards of the day, which were those of Victoria and her Albert, Isobel Ashton was held to be a shockingly unconventional young woman, and there had been a number of raised eyebrows and censorious comments when she had arrived in the cantonment of Peshawar, on the North-West Frontier of India, in the year of the Great Exhibition, orphaned, unmarried and twenty-one, with the avowed intention of keeping house for her only remaining relative, her bachelor brother William, who had recently been appointed to the newly raised Corps of Guides.

The eyebrows had risen even further when a year later she had married Professor Hilary Pelham-Martyn, the well-known linguist, ethnologist and botanist, and departed with him on a leisurely, planless exploration of the plains and foothills of Hindustan, unaccompanied by so much as a single female attendant.

Hilary was middle-aged and eccentric, and no one – least of all himself – was ever able to decide why he should suddenly have elected to marry a portionless, though admittedly pretty girl, less than half his age and quite unacquainted with the East; or, having remained a bachelor for so many years, married at all. Isobel's reasons, in the opinion of Peshawar society, were more easily explained: Hilary was rich enough to live as he pleased, and his published works had already made his name known in scholarly circles throughout the civilized world. Miss Ashton, they decided, had done very well for herself.

But Isobel had not married for the sake of money or ambition. Despite her forthright manner she was both impetuous and intensely romantic, and Hilary's mode of life struck her as being the very epitome of Romance. What could be more entrancing than a carefree nomadic existence camping, moving, exploring strange places and the ruins of forgotten empires, sleeping under canvas or the open sky, and giving no thought to the conventions and restriction of the modern world? There was also another, and perhaps more compelling consideration: the need to escape from an intolerable situation.

It had been frustrating in the extreme to arrive unheralded in India only to discover that her brother, far from being pleased to see her, was not only appalled by the prospect of having his sister on his hands, but quite incapable of offering her so much as a roof over her head. The Guides at that time were almost continuously in action against the Frontier tribes and seldom able to live peaceably in their cantonment at Mardan, and both William and the Regiment had been dismayed by Isobel's arrival. Between them they had managed to arrange temporary accommodation for her in the house of a Colonel and Mrs Pemberthy in Peshawar. But this had not been a success.

The Pemberthys were well-meaning but unbearably dull. Moreover, they had made no secret of their disapproval of Miss Ashton's conduct in travelling to the East, unchaperoned, and had done their best by advice and example to erase the unfortunate impression created by her arrival. Isobel soon discovered that she was expected to behave with stultifying decorum. She must not do this and it was inadvisable to do that ... The list of prohibitions seemed endless.

Edith Pemberthy took no interest in the country where she and her husband had spent the greater part of their lives, and looked upon its people as uncivilized heathens who by the exercise of patience and strictness might be trained to become admirable servants. She could not conceive of there being any real communication with them on any level, and could neither understand nor sympathize with Isobel's eagerness to explore the bazaars and the native city, to ride out into the open country that stretched south to the Indus and the Kabul River or northward to the wild hills of the Khyber.

'There is nothing to see,' said Mrs Pemberthy, 'and the tribesmen are murderous savages – entirely untrustworthy.' Her husband had fully endorsed this view, and eight months under their roof began to feel like eight years to poor Isobel.

She had made no friends, for unfortunately the ladies of the garrison, discussing her over the tea cups, had decided that Miss Ashton was 'fast' and that the most likely motive for her journey to India was the desire to snare herself a husband. A verdict that from constant repetition came to be generally accepted by the station's bachelors, who, much as they might admire her looks, her unaffected manners and her excellent seat on a horse, had no wish to figure as gullible victims of a husband-hunter, and consequently fought shy of her. It is therefore hardly surprising that Isobel should have been heartily sick of Peshawar by the time Professor Pelham-Martyn appeared in the station, accompanied by his long-time friend and travelling companion Sirdar Bahadur Akbar Khan, a motley crew of servants and camp-followers, and four locked yakdans containing botanical specimens, the manuscript of a treatise on the origins of Sanskrit and a detailed report, in code, of a variety of official, semi-official and unofficial happenings in the dominions of the East India Company ...

Hilary Pelham-Martyn bore a strong resemblance to that amiable and equally eccentric gentleman, the late Mr Ashton, and Isobel had adored her father. Possibly this may have had something to do with her immediate interest in the Professor, and the comfortable feeling of security and ease that his company gave her. Everything about him – his mode of life, his intense interest in India and its people, his grizzled, crippled friend Akbar Khan, and his total disregard of the rules that governed the conduct and outlook of such people as the Pemberthys – appealed strongly to Isobel. Paradoxically, he represented both escape and safety, and she had embarked on matrimony as buoyantly, and with as little regard as to the hazards of the future, as she had embarked on the S.S. Gordon Castle at Tilbury for the long voyage to India. And this time she had not been disappointed.

Hilary, it is true, treated her more as a favourite daughter than a wife, but this was pleasantly familiar and provided a comfortable leavening of stability and continuity to the haphazard camp life that was to be her portion for the next two years. And, having never previously fallen in love, she had no yardstick by which to measure the affection she felt for her vague, easy-going and unconventional husband, and was as completely content as any human being has a right to be. Hilary permitted her to ride astride, and for two happy years they travelled up and down India, exploring the foothills of the Himalayas and following the Emperor Akbar's road to Kashmir, and returning to spend the winters in the plains among the ruined tombs and palaces of lost cities. For most of that time Isobel had been without any feminine companionship and had not felt the lack of it. There were always books to read or Hilary's botanical specimens to be pressed and catalogued, and she would occupy her evenings with these while her husband and Akbar Khan played chess or argued hotly on involved questions of politics, religion, predestination and race.

Sirdar Bahadur Akbar Khan was a grizzled, crippled, ex-officer of a famous cavalry regiment, who had been wounded at the Battle of Mianee and had retired to his ancestral acres on the banks of the Ravi River to spend the remainder of his days in such peaceful pursuits as cultivation and the study of the Koran. The two men had met when Hilary was camping near Akbar Khan's home village, and had taken an instant liking to each other. They were, in many ways, very similar in character and outlook, and Akbar Khan had become restless and dissatisfied at the prospect of remaining in one place until he died.

'I am an old man, wifeless now; and childless too, for my sons are dead in the service of the Company and my daughter is married. What is there to keep me? Let us travel together,' said Akbar Khan. 'A tent is better than the four walls of a house to one who has had his day.'

They had travelled together ever since and become boon companions. But it had not taken Akbar Khan long to discover that his friend's interest in botany, ruins and the dialects of the country provided an admirable cover for another activity: the compiling of reports on the administration of the East India Company, for the benefit of certain members of Her Majesty's Government who had reason to suspect that all was not as well with India as official sources would have them believe. It was work of which Akbar Khan approved, and to which he had given invaluable assistance, as his knowledge of his fellow countrymen enabled him to weigh the worth of verbal evidence with more accuracy than Hilary. Between them, over the years, they had compiled and sent home folio after folio of fact and warning, much of which was published in the British press and used in debate in both Houses of Parliament – though for all the good it did they might as well have confined themselves to botany, for the public, it seemed, preferred to believe that which disturbed it least and to ignore troublesome information. Which is a failing common to all nations.

The Professor and his friend had worked and travelled together for five years when Hilary unexpectedly added a wife to the caravan, and Akbar Khan had accepted her presence with a placid matter-of-factness that recognized her place in the scheme of things, without considering it particularly important one way or another. He had been the only one of the three who was not disagreeably surprised by the discovery that Isobel was pregnant. It was, after all, the duty of women to produce children, and of course it must be a son.

'We will make him an officer of the Guides, like his uncle,' said Akbar Khan, brooding over the chess board, 'or the Governor of a Province.'

Isobel, like most of her generation, was abysmally ignorant of the processes of birth. She had not discovered her state for some considerable time and then had been startled and more than a little annoyed – it had never occurred to her to be frightened. A baby was going to be a distinct complication in the camp; it would need constant attention, and a nurse and special food and ... Really, it was too annoying.

Hilary, equally surprised, suggested hopefully that she might be mistaken as to her condition, but being assured she was not, inquired when the child would be born. Isobel had no idea, but she attempted to cast her mind back over the past few months, and having counted on her fingers, frowned and counted again, she ventured an opinion that proved to be wholly inaccurate.

'We'd better make for Peshawar,' decided Hilary. 'There'll be a doctor there. And other women. I suppose it will be all right if we get there a month ahead? Better make it six weeks to be on the safe side.'

Which is how his son came to be born in the middle of nowhere and without the aid of doctor, nurse or such medicines as science possessed.

Apart from one or two sweeper's wives and several veiled and anonymous female relatives of the camp-followers, there was only one other woman in the camp who could be called upon to help: Sita, wife of Hilary's head syce (groom) Daya Ram, a hill-woman from Kangan way who had doubly disgraced herself by bearing and losing five daughters in the past five years – the last of whom had died the previous week, having lived less than three days.

'It seems she cannot bear sons,' said Daya Ram disgustedly. 'But the gods know she should at least have come by enough knowledge to help one into the world.'

So it was poor, shy, bereaved Sita, the groom's wife, who had acted as midwife at Isobel's lying-in. And she had indeed known enough to bring a man-child into the world.

It was not her fault that Isobel died. It was the wind that killed Isobel: that cold wind off the far, high snows beyond the passes. It stirred up the dust and the dead pine-needles and sent them swirling through the tent where the lamp guttered to the draught, and there was dirt in that dust: germs and infection and uncleanness from the camp outside, and from other camps. Dirt that would not have been found in a bedroom in Peshawar cantonment, with an English doctor to care for the young mother.

Three days later a passing missionary, trekking across the mountains on his way to the Punjab, stopped by the camp and was requested to baptize the baby. He had done so in a collapsible canvas bucket, naming him, by his father's wish, Ashton Hilary Akbar, and had left without seeing the child's mother who was said to be feeling 'poorly' – a piece of information that hardly surprised him, since the unfortunate lady could have received no proper attention in such a camp.

Had he been able to delay his departure for another two days he would have been able to officiate at Mrs Pelham-Martyn's funeral, for Isobel died twenty-four hours after her son's christening, and was buried by her husband and her husband's friend on the summit of the pass overlooking their tents, the entire camp attending the ceremony with every evidence of grief.

Hilary too had been grief-stricken. But he had also been aggrieved. What in the name of heaven was he to do with a baby now that Isobel had gone? He knew nothing about babies – apart from the fact that they were given to howling and had to be fed at all hours of the day and night. 'What on earth are we to do with it?' inquired Hilary of Akbar Khan, staring resentfully at his son.

Akbar Khan prodded the infant with a bony finger, and laughed when the baby clung to it. 'Ah, he is a strong, bold boy. He shall be a soldier – a captain of many sabres. Do not trouble yourself on his account, my friend. Daya Ram's wife will feed him as she has done from the day of his birth, having lost her own child, which was surely arranged by Allah who orders all things.'

'But we can't keep him in camp,' objected Hilary. 'We shall have to find someone who is going on leave and get them to take him home. I expect the Pemberthys would know of someone. Or young William. Yes, that's what we'd better do: I've got a brother in England whose wife can take care of him until I get back myself.'

That matter being decided he had taken Akbar Khan's advice and ceased to worry. And as the baby throve and was seldom heard to cry, they came to the conclusion that there was no hurry about going to Peshawar after all, and having cut Isobel's name on a boulder above her grave, they struck camp and headed east towards Garwal.

Hilary never returned to Peshawar; and being deplorably absent-minded, he failed to notify either his brother-in-law William Ashton, or any of his relatives in England, that he was now a father – and a widower. The occasional letter (there were not many) that still arrived addressed to his wife would from time to time remind him of his obligations. But as he was always too occupied to give them his immediate attention, they were put aside to be dealt with at some later date and invariably forgotten; as he came to forget Isobel – and even, on occasions, the fact, that he had a son.

'Ash-Baba', as the baby was known to his foster-mother Sita, and to the entire camp, spent the first eighteen months of his life among the high mountains, and took his first steps on a slippery grass hillside within sight of the towering peak of Nanda Devi and the long range of her attendant snows. Seeing him toddling about the camp you would have taken him to be Sita's own child, for Isobel had been a brown beauty, honey-skinned, black-haired and grey-eyed; and her son had inherited her colouring. He had also inherited a considerable proportion of her good looks and would, said Akbar Khan approvingly, make a handsome man one day.

The camp never remained long in one place, Hilary being engaged in studying hill dialects and collecting wild flowers. But sterner matters eventually called him from this work, and leaving the hills behind them the camp turned southward and came at last, by way of Jhansi and Sattara, to the lush greenery and long white beaches of the Coromandal Coast.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye. Copyright © 1978 M. M. Kaye. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Cover,
Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Epigraphs,
Book One The Twig is Bent,
Book Two Belinda,
Book Three World out of Time,
Book Four Bhithor,
Book Five Paradise of Fools,
Book Six Juli,
Book Seven My Brother Jonathan,
Book Eight The Land of Cain,
GLOSSARY,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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The Far Pavilions 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LOVE THIS BOOK - PLEASE EBOOK IT!!!
JessLucy More than 1 year ago
I adore this book. I've read it three times over the last ten years and I'm always sad to finish it. If you like history combined with a thrilling plotline, mystery and romance, this is the book for you. The characters are so real, the background so richly detailed and the writing so captivating that you won't want to put this book down!
If you like this book, I would also recommend Shadow of the Moon and Trade Wind, both by M.M. Kaye. Also, The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, the Clan of the Cave Bear and sequels by Jean M. Auel.
sunnynurse More than 1 year ago
The book is MUCH better than the movie -- written by M.M. Kaye, who grew up in India with Missionary parents, but who spent much time with her "nurse" and other Indian servants in the household, learned Hindu, and Pushtu, and some other (parts at least) of local languages. Very knowledgeable about the REAL British India - both the bad and the good, and especially sympathetic to the native peoples, whom she seems to have really loved and understood both their points of view and their customs. Most unusual to find a British woman writer with this viewpoint. As has been said of her previously in a Book Review -- "if she never wrote another book, this would secure her place in literary history". She was about 70 when she wrote this, and did write some other novels, but this is her BEST. My hardcopies were in two volumes (very early editions), but lost Vol. I, so purchased this in order to have both volumes in one book. Read about 12 hrs. a day to read it all again. Will probably read it 2 - 3 times each year. More Hindi language at end of 2 volume hardcopy set, most of which I learned. Highly recommend just for the pleasure of "living" in another time with people well-defined, characters you can care about and understand.
SusanThies More than 1 year ago
I've forgotten how many times I've read this book & it is just as beautiful each time I read it. My only complaint is that it's not available on the Nook. If you want to read a book that should never end, this is the book for you. I "saw" Ash as the little Indian boy & later when he was grown. So few books are that engrossing and will always be one of my "must read" recommendations.
DanaAnNJReader More than 1 year ago
It has been 30 years since I read it, and I still remember how captivating it is. I wish every book could be like this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful, complex, intricate historical novel. One man's (the hero is modelled on the author's husband) journey into the Indian subcontinent set in the time between 1850's to 1880 featuring historic names and actions. A tale of adventure, friendship, betrayal, intrigue, and love set in an exotic, harsh, yet wonderful world of India of the Raj. The lead character starts life as the son of a noted British author living a nomad's life in India, but loses his father when he is 4. After that, the misadventures, adventures, and heroics that our hero suffers through are part of the larger scope of history in that vast sub-continent. The author's first-hand knowledge of India and its peoples as well as her and her husband's family personal histories allowed her to create and populate a world that is real and vibrant. Many of the characters in the book are real and their exploits are real. Reading through this book again, I was struck by how some things have not really changed all that much since the time of the novel. I would put this book at the top of any reading list. Not many books compare. It is well worth the time you will invest in getting to know Ash's world.
tcobb1959 More than 1 year ago
Will her books EVER be published in Nook format? Can anyone please answer?
Jane-Ellen More than 1 year ago
I first read this book when it had just come out and fell in love with it. When the mini-series came on television, I was gratified that they had not adulterated the story in any way.In fact, the actors chosen for the series are ones I would have chosen myself, they were so perfect. But I am someone who likes to read a book and visualize the characters it as I read along. Ms. Kaye's writing was so evocative and so clear that she made the book come alive by itself. am just concerned that this book may not contain both volumes as I already have a hardcover edition of Volume 1 and am looking for Volume 2. I am willing to purchase a book that contains both volumes, but will be terribly disappointed if this arrives at my home and only contains Volume 1.FIVE STARS SEEMS INADEQUATE FOR A BOOK OF THIS CALIBER! I VOTE FOR 6!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely Far Pavillions is one of the very best books I have ever read. I read it over 20 yrs. ago and am a voracious reader, and it stands with a very select number of books as a winner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grand, sweeping, detailed, atmospheric historical with thrills, mystery, pageantry, action and romance - filled with marvelous characters - lead and supporting. Please release it and other MM Kaye's in e-book format.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Far Pavilions is a great book to read. This is the second time I have read it. It needs to be on ebook. PLEASE ebook it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed all 1189 pages not only once but three times. Each time I found more joy in reading this book. My thoughts wandered to the 19th century, to the conquests of a kingdom, its military might, successes and demises. A very compelling story based on historical facts, a tender love story. Passionate and compassionately portrait by a wonderful, skilled writer. This book is a MUST read for everyone who seeks knowledge of history, lands and people. It is the past that shaped our presence and consequently we are responsible for the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved it from the very beginning. Have read it 4 times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book the far pavilions is one of the best I have read in along time and I have read alot of books. I just received this book Thursday and I am almost done it is Monday. I recommend this book to anyone who loves anything historic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one that takes you far away to a magical literary heaven! You'll be glad you read it!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read this book so many times, I had to buy a second copy. This is literally the best book written in the last 100 years. Even Gone With the Wind comes in second. You really feel like you are in India when reading this, the love story is magnificent and the characters are fully developed. Don't be scared by the length because once you start reading, it will fly. M.M Kaye knows how to write a richly detailed book without losing sight of the story and characters. I only wish authors would write more books like this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book 15 years ago and I'm reading it again. I recommend this book to anyone. It has all the elements - romance, mystery, suspense, and history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the few that kept me reading all day and all night until I finished. It's fascinating, and the love story between Ash and Juli is amazing. It's well written and there's not a dull page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have recommended this book to many of my friends, but they are all discouraged by the size. Don't be! Every page is worth it! It's full of love, violence, and twists that keep you on the edge of you seat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I've ever read. Really!
terricoop on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I am a big fan of great big novels with sweeping epic storylines. The more historically accurate the better. However, I am not a big fan of romances. ¿The Far Pavilions¿ is one of the few exceptions to this rule. The star-crossed love story of Ash and Juli is engrossing and breath-taking.Set against the backdrop of British India in the waning days of Pax Britannica, M.M. Kaye weaves historical facts and references into this lush love story. Ashton Hillary Akbar Pellham-Martin, an englishman born to an eccentric explorer grows up torn between England and India. Anjuli-Bai is the forgotten older sister of the adored princess of a tiny mountain kingdom. I¿ll leave the rest to your imagination . . . Normally, I like books with a healthy dose of action with character development taking a back seat. Again, this book is the exception. The book follows Ash as he grows from a rag-tag boy to an arrogant English officer, and finally into a man who has lost the world in order to gain his heart¿s desire. Juli is the only constant in his life. When she was a sad and serious little girl, she was his best friend. Fully grown into a stunning young woman, she is resigned to a fate that will keep them apart forever. Finally, she is the wise and mature partner who leads Ash away from the ruin of everything he had believed in. Sigh, makes me want to read it again . . . Why readers should read this book:Brilliant description and narrative makes India feel as familiar as my backyard. Excellent weaving of historical facts into the fictional love story. This hefty book will only make you wish it was longer.Why writers should read this book:Perfect example of a historical romance. M.M. Kaye never breaks character. The Indian characters are as arrogant as the British and the use of accurate historical speech and detail pulls the reader deep into the story and never lets them go. Still brilliant after thirty years.
nevusmom on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Great book. Period.
Rue_full on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A monument in historical fiction ( yes, it's romance, but so is Gone With the Wind). I did my capstone project on MM Kaye and her amazing life. Her biographies tell an important story about revisionist history - how the people of India prefer to forget the story of the Black Hole of Calcutta. She is an important author, along with Kipling and others, for the study of post-colonialism.
Kasthu on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Where do I begin with The Far Pavilions? It¿s an epic love story with a complicated, suspenseful plot, and any review I might write wouldn¿t do it justice. But I¿ll try. Ashton Pelham-Martyn is born in India in 1852, the son of a famed British scholar. When his father dies, Ash is entrusted into the care of his maternal uncle. However, the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 changes the course of his life, and Ash goes into hiding with his foster mother, Sita. Later, Ash becomes a servant in the royal court at Karidkote, under the crown prince. While there, Ash meets Juli, and his life changes once again.MM Kaye was born in India and lived there for a significant part of her life, and it¿s clear from this novel that India left an indelible, positive mark on her. India in the time of the British Raj fairly oozes from all 955 pages of this epic novel about love that transcends culture, caste, religion, and other factors. Kaye does a fantastic job of describing the differences between each of the Indian city-states, and then contrasting them with the oh-so-different British, who don¿t quite understand (or even try to) the ways of the natives. There are lots of long, descriptive passages in the novel, which sometimes slows the novel down; but at other times, those passages would heighten the suspense factor for me. My other criticism is that the part of the book that takes place in Afghanistan seemed like an afterthought and detracted from a nearly perfect storyline. But this was the kind of book that I had to read in small chunks because of how emotionally draining it was. And also, because I didn¿t want it to end.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing 5 months ago
An epic romance of the British Raj, this book is a massive undertaking. I started it last year, read a bit and put it down to concentrate on other, shorter works. I had heard that it was a sweeping romance of the type that I have always loved and that I would fly through it. Well, I didn't love it (didn't hate it) and I certainly didn't fly through it. But it is a book that has a little of everything for the interested reader. Ashton Pelham-Martyn is but a baby when his explorer/linguist father dies of cholera in the Himalayas. His Indian nurse takes the boy and tries to find his people but this has all happened against the background of a massive mutiny against the English and so she keeps the child, renames him Ashok and raises him as her own until the time he is taken into the household of a royal household far from the violence. It is here that Ash first meets and befriends the princess Anjuli, a young child who is neglected by the women of the harem and by her half-brother. But treachery is afoot and in the end Ash has to flee for his life. Learning of his British heritage, Ash is eventually sent to England to complete his education before being posted back to India as a military officer. The story picks up steam once Ash returns to India and is entrusted with the escort of two Rajasthani princesses to their new husband. This escort will change everything. The book is definitely a romance, an adventure story, a history of the British Raj, and it truly sweeps across the landscape of colonial India. It captures a nation simmering closer to a boil under the rule of colonizers. And while the picture it draws is engrossing, it is also sometimes quite stereotypical with the either noble or conniving natives, the bumbling and insensitive British, and Ash Pelham-Martyn, the ever-understanding bridge between the two worlds, a man who is driven by love: love of Juli, love of people, and love of the land of his birth. As a sentimental picture, this is pleasing and the story romps along at a good pace but there is just a bit too much rosiness to make this completely satisfying. India is an eminently fascinating place and the turmoil and tension in the waning years of the British Raj make for great stories. Ash's identity crisis, his tolerance of all people, and his ability to understand many sides of a story are certainly object lessons we still need to learn, especially in many parts of the world. Most fans of historical fiction will rate this one as a favorite of all time. I think I was just looking for something a bit more realistic although had I read it many years ago when I first bought it, I think it would have hit my all time list too. Unfortunately, timing is everything and while I thought it was a good read, it wasn't all I had hoped.