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Set in colonial India during the 1920s, Heat and Dust tells the story of Olivia, a beautiful woman suffocated by the propriety and social constraints of her position as the wife of an important English civil servant. Longing for passion and independence, Olivia is drawn into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in gang raids and criminal plots. She Set in colonial India during the 1920s, Heat and Dust tells the story of Olivia, a beautiful woman suffocated by the propriety and social constraints of her position as the wife of an important English civil servant. Longing for passion and independence, Olivia is drawn into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in gang raids and criminal plots. She is intrigued by the Nawab's charm and aggressive courtship, and soon begins to spend most of her days in his company. But then she becomes pregnant, and unsure of the child's paternity, she is faced with a wrenching dilemma. Her reaction to the crisis humiliates her husband and outrages the British community, breeding a scandal that lives in collective memory long after her death.


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Set in colonial India during the 1920s, Heat and Dust tells the story of Olivia, a beautiful woman suffocated by the propriety and social constraints of her position as the wife of an important English civil servant. Longing for passion and independence, Olivia is drawn into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in gang raids and criminal plots. She Set in colonial India during the 1920s, Heat and Dust tells the story of Olivia, a beautiful woman suffocated by the propriety and social constraints of her position as the wife of an important English civil servant. Longing for passion and independence, Olivia is drawn into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in gang raids and criminal plots. She is intrigued by the Nawab's charm and aggressive courtship, and soon begins to spend most of her days in his company. But then she becomes pregnant, and unsure of the child's paternity, she is faced with a wrenching dilemma. Her reaction to the crisis humiliates her husband and outrages the British community, breeding a scandal that lives in collective memory long after her death.

30 review for Heat and Dust

  1. 4 out of 5

    Annet

    Fascinating book about the contradictions between and at the same time love of Indian and English culture… The beautiful, spoiled and bored Olivia, married to a civil servant living in India, shocks society in the tiny, suffocating hot town of Satipur, by eloping with an Indian prince, the Nawab. Fifty years later, her step-grand daughter goes back to the heat, dust and the squalor of the bazaar to find out more of Olivia’s scandal and discover India for herself. So the story moves back and fort Fascinating book about the contradictions between and at the same time love of Indian and English culture… The beautiful, spoiled and bored Olivia, married to a civil servant living in India, shocks society in the tiny, suffocating hot town of Satipur, by eloping with an Indian prince, the Nawab. Fifty years later, her step-grand daughter goes back to the heat, dust and the squalor of the bazaar to find out more of Olivia’s scandal and discover India for herself. So the story moves back and forth in time. Fascinating story, well told. Here’s a piece of the book: ‘ I try to find an explanation for him. I tell him that many of us are tired of the materialism of the West, and even if we have no particular attraction towards the spiritual message of the East, we come here in the hope of finding a simpler and more natural way of life. This explanation hurts him. He feels it to be a mockery. He says why should people who have everything – motor cars, refrigerators – come here to such a place where there is nothing? He says he often feels ashamed before me because of the way he is living. When I try to protest, he works himself up more’……’Why shouldn’t I laugh, he cries, not giving me a chance to say anything – he himself often feels like ‘laughing’ when he looks around him and sees the conditions in which people are living and the superstitions in their minds. Who would not laugh, he says, pointing out of the window where one of the town’s beggars happens to be passing, a teenage boy who cannot stand upright but drags the crippled underpart of his body behind him in the dust - who would not laugh, says Inder Lal, at a sight like that’ ………….. ‘Heat and Dust’ was the Booker prize winner of 1975. I read in a folder of the Booker Prize that authors were insulted that the judges found only two books worthy of shortlisting out of a total of 83 submissions. The other one was Thomas Keneally’s ‘Gossip from the Forest’.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    3.5 stars Winner of the Booker Prize in 1975; this is actually quite good. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is an interesting character; her parents fled the Nazis in the late 1930s and she lost many family members in the Holocaust. She lived initially in Britain and then married an Indian architect and moved to India in 1951. She remained there until the 1970s when she moved to the US where she continued her already creative relationship with the Merchant Ivory team and had a hand in a great many of their f 3.5 stars Winner of the Booker Prize in 1975; this is actually quite good. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is an interesting character; her parents fled the Nazis in the late 1930s and she lost many family members in the Holocaust. She lived initially in Britain and then married an Indian architect and moved to India in 1951. She remained there until the 1970s when she moved to the US where she continued her already creative relationship with the Merchant Ivory team and had a hand in a great many of their films. She is a perceptive writer, but is something of an outsider. Her work has been praised widely, but I think Rushdie’s comment about her being a “rootless intellectual” is most perceptive because it sums up the positives and negatives that have been expressed about her work. Keen observation, but the sense of distance. This novel jumps between India in the 1970s and India in the 1920s. It revolves around Olivia in the 1920s, a new bride in India; married to a middle ranking and starchy civil servant and her step granddaughter (who is unnamed) in the 1970s who is trying to find out about Olivia. There are lots of parallels between the two stories. There are comparisons to be drawn between the two women, between the two India’s, between their two lovers. The colonial servants are caricatures in many ways; and yet .... in 1983 I was training to be a priest (part of my disreputable past) and I was working in a parish in a wealthy area of Birmingham. I came across a very old couple who were ex- Indian colonial service/military police. They would have slotted into the 1920s section of this book quite nicely. There was no remorse (regret that we had let India go) and no understanding of what Imperialism and Empire was about. It was like stepping back in time. The Nawab in the book is certainly a caricature and has a lack of subtlety; he seems to be a composite of everything that might possibly be wrong with the Indian upper class. However the portrayals of the two women, I found interesting and the character of Olivia was very good and she deserved a better backdrop. Her reactions to the stifling colonial community and her gradual rebellion were well written. The descriptive passages relating to the heat especially are good and you can feel the building tension in Olivia’s story. It is difficult to understand why Olivia falls for either of the men she falls for; but (apparently) power is a great aphrodisiac. In contrast the two men in the 1970s are entirely different; a hippy/aspiring holy man and a lower middle class unremarkable husband; quiescent in a way the 1920s men were not. Both of the British men fail to cope with India in entirely different ways and both women stay. As you may sense I am a little conflicted in what I think about it and am sitting firmly on the fence! To conclude, I think I wanted more, but I’m not sure what.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    1) Western writers on British India seem a bit obsessed with sex between English women and Indian men. There was A Passage to India by Forster in 1924 – the plot turns round a charge of rape of an English woman by an Indian man. Then The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott in 1966 – another charge of rape of an English woman by an Indian man. Then Heat and Dust in 1975 which gives us the shocking tale of an English woman who elopes with an Indian man. 2) The first sentence of the blurb says The bea 1) Western writers on British India seem a bit obsessed with sex between English women and Indian men. There was A Passage to India by Forster in 1924 – the plot turns round a charge of rape of an English woman by an Indian man. Then The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott in 1966 – another charge of rape of an English woman by an Indian man. Then Heat and Dust in 1975 which gives us the shocking tale of an English woman who elopes with an Indian man. 2) The first sentence of the blurb says The beautiful, spoiled and bored Olivia, married to a civil servant, outrages society in the tiny suffocating town of Satipur by eloping with an Indian prince. The actual elopement does not happen until page 171 (out of 181). I think that blurb writer should be fired. 3) This novel is another of those very melancholy drooping meandering quiet humble softly despairing everything under the surface not really a plot at all books like Hotel Du Lac and Staying On and The Remains of the Day. They can be brilliant – Remains of the Day is really great – but sometimes you want to light a jumping jack under their arses. Heat and Dust was just eurghhhhhhh. 4) 1975 must have been a dire year if this won the Booker Prize.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    An eloquent and beautifully poised novella comparing and contrasting the experiences of two English women in India. The unnamed narrator travels to India to investigate and tell the story of her father's first wife, a bored housewife who has an affair with a local prince. Their two stories are alternated and have many parallels, as well as contrasts between colonial and independent India. It is easy to see why this book won the Booker prize.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This short novel tells the story of two women, in two different era's. First there is the spoiled and unhappy Oliva, in 1923 colonial India, who outrages society by having an affair with the local Nawab. Olivia's husband Douglas divorces her and remarries. In the 1970's, his granddaughter arrives in India to revisit the places her family once lived and to try to discover the truth about the scandal that surrounded her grandfather's first wife. There are a great deal of parallel events that occur This short novel tells the story of two women, in two different era's. First there is the spoiled and unhappy Oliva, in 1923 colonial India, who outrages society by having an affair with the local Nawab. Olivia's husband Douglas divorces her and remarries. In the 1970's, his granddaughter arrives in India to revisit the places her family once lived and to try to discover the truth about the scandal that surrounded her grandfather's first wife. There are a great deal of parallel events that occur during this novel; allowing you to see how attitudes have changed over the years. Olivia is a young woman who is simply bored with the life she finds herself leading - with her respectable neighbours, dull dinner parties and absent husband. The Nawab is looked upon with some contempt by Douglas and the other men in the English community. "Only a very little prince..." as his friend Harry remarks, he is regarded as "the worst type of ruler - the worst type of Indian - you can have," by Douglas. Living apart from his wife, dissatisfied and also bored, events throw him and Olivia together with disastrous consequences. Although this is a short read, it really packs an emotional punch and it is beautifully written. Both the story of Oliva and that of her step-granddaughter almost merge, as you find yourself changing viewpoints with an ease that belies the skill of the author. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala died at the age of 85 this year (2013) but her work stands the test of time and this 1975 Booker winning novel will remain a classic.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    [2.5] An only-just-postcolonial novel about the British in India, by an author who described herself as "a Central European with an English education and a deplorable tendency to constant self-analysis," and who was married to an Indian man. Some friends will see from that quote why I might have been interested in Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, but I read this very short book mostly to improve my count of Booker winners (this being only the 14th), as I'm active in a group where many people have read more [2.5] An only-just-postcolonial novel about the British in India, by an author who described herself as "a Central European with an English education and a deplorable tendency to constant self-analysis," and who was married to an Indian man. Some friends will see from that quote why I might have been interested in Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, but I read this very short book mostly to improve my count of Booker winners (this being only the 14th), as I'm active in a group where many people have read more. That characterisation - along with her scriptwriting work for Merchant Ivory - was pretty much all I remembered about the author at the time I started reading Heat and Dust. (And I only learnt a few months ago that she wasn't, as I'd always previously assumed, Anglo-Indian.) About ¾ of the way through the book, I read more about RPJ and her attitude to India, and this at least partly cancelled out one of the interpretations of the book I'd been building up to that point. Although I was intensely engaged in note-taking and thinking all through the book, the analysis was almost all I got out of it. I found the prose boring, and the parallels between the two protagonists' stories became heavy-handed. There are two alternating narratives in Heat and Dust. One is told in the third-person, about Olivia, the bored, naïve and sheltered new young wife of Douglas, a British colonial official in West Bengal; we are told in the book's opening sentence that she ran off with a Nawab in 1923. The other is a first-person narrative contemporary to the book's writing in the 1970s, by the unnamed British granddaughter of Douglas' second marriage (whom I'll refer to as the narrator or the granddaughter.) She is in her late 20s or early 30s and travels to India, with a cache of Olivia's letters, to see the scenes of this family scandal which is now beginning to be talked about, and to experience some of the 'simplicity' of India that attracted young Westerners on the hippie trail. No less than five of the first ten Booker Prize winners (1969-77) address the British Empire and its end. I haven't read any of the others, but it's clear from these wins that it was a big topic for British literary fiction at the time, and was predominantly written about from the British viewpoint (all the winners other than V.S. Naipaul were British or Irish). I had never been very keen to read these novels, as I expected the writing about India and Indian people would be clumsy from a contemporary viewpoint, and I didn't expect there would be much to learn about the old India hands that I hadn't already seen in old documentaries and light novels read when I was younger. Starting Heat & Dust, I wondered if it might be different because the author had lived in post-independence India for 24 years with her Indian architect husband - surely very a different experience from that of colonial staff or tourists. Through most of the book, before I'd done more research, I developed a tentative hypothesis that Prawer Jhabvala a was notably progressive and perceptive in her attitudes by the standards of her time, and was subtly critiquing the granddaughter and people of her generation from similar old colonial service families - and the hippies - who thought they were more open-minded about India than they actually were. Thus, the stereotypes in the third-person story about Olivia were present because the granddaughter was telling that story and because that was how she, and the sources from which she got the information, saw the people involved. (The wilful, coercively seductive Muslim Nawab, for instance, seems to fit the old desert sheikh stereotype in romance.) This made it seem like a potentially rather interesting piece of literature for its time, and such layered complexity would explain its Booker win (although some 2010s commentators, such as those who criticise the lionising of sexist or abusive male narrators, e.g in Rebecca Solnit's essay on Lolita, would argue that the widespread critical elevation of such narrators is at best questionable). I was never 100% sure about this analysis, and was planning to write a review in which I outlined both that interpretation and a simpler, less favourable one. 1975 must not have been a great year for British and Commonwealth literature anyway, as the Booker shortlist consisted of only two titles. Even though what I read about Prawer Jhabvala and her feelings about India pointed towards the simpler interpretation - in which the granddaughter's attitudes have a fair bit in common with the author's, and in which the story of Olivia and the Nawab is told straight - one could perhaps argue the book still has something going for it *because* it has the flexibility to be interpreted in more than one way. Pankaj Mishra's 2004 NYT review of another Prawer Jhabvala book refers to a 1980s essay of hers which said "'how intolerable India -- the idea, the sensation of it -- can become' to someone like her… Jhabvala spoke of the intense heat, the lack of a social life and the 'great animal of poverty and backwardness' that she couldn't avoid". (Heat & Dust does contain a lot of hackneyed scenes of vast crowds and poverty - but at the same time everyone here whom I've heard talk about going to India, including British people of Indian descent, has said that it's one of the things you notice at first because of the contrast - so I'm not totally sure what the correct take on that is, except that it's overused while other less stereotypical aspects may go ignored in western writing about India.) I can certainly relate to the dissatisfaction of living in a place you don't like, and to some other ways which Mishra describes her: "the confident exile -- of the much displaced person who, finally secure in her inner world and reconciled to her isolation, looks askance at people longing for fulfillment in other cultures and landscapes", or " When fully absorbed by self-analysis, the perennial outsider usually ends up regarding all emotional and intellectual commitment as folly. Such cold-eyed clarity, useful to a philosopher or mystic, can only be a disadvantage for the novelist, who needs to enter, at least temporarily, her characters' illusions in order to recreate them convincingly on the page." And these days more than ever, lack of respect for a place where you've spent a lot of time will win you few friends. (IME it takes about as long to wear off as the time you lived there.) I think there may be limited use in reading this novel these days, especially for those who find the writing as uninspiring as I did; to learn about India in the 1920s or the 70s it's probably better to read non-fiction, and its frequently stereotypical attitudes will annoy some readers. Where there may be interesting things going on are in the cynical caricatures of young British hippies by a westerner who's been in India longer, and in feminism / attitudes to women. When the granddaughter tries to explain the hippies to her Indian landlord (a few years younger than herself), it sounds as if she has a little affinity with them: "I tell him that many of us are tired of the materialism of the West, and even if we have no particular attraction towards the spiritual message of the-East, we come here in the hope of finding a simpler and more natural way of life." [Directly following this is one of the very few occasions in which a convincing Indian voice appears, in his reply, "This explanation hurts him. He feels it to be a mockery. He says why should people who have everything -motor cars, refrigerators - come here to such a place where there is nothing? He says he often feels ashamed before me because of· the way he is living. When I try to protest, he works himself up more, He says he is perfectly well aware that, by Western standards, his house as well as his food and his way of eating it would be considered primitive, inadequate - indeed,. he himself would be considered so because of his unscientific mind and ignorance of the modem world. Yes he knows very well that he is lagging far behind in all these respects and on that account I am well entitled to laugh at him. Why shouldn't I laugh! he cries, not giving me a chance to say anything - he himself often feels like laughing when he looks around him and sees the conditions in which people are living and the superstitions in their minds." A hippie couple who came to India after being swept up by a swami's talk in London on universal love can be summarised thus: "Why did you come?" I asked her. "To find peace." She laughed grimly: "But all I found was dysentery." These young travellers don't seem to be particularly well off, so the reader doesn't have to endure the most tedious aspects of the 21st-century "gap yah" caricature. (Some even have regional accents!) This is instead about an absurd gulf between romantic expectation and physical reality, and how some Indian spiritual teachers seem to be either milking a cash-cow, or are just oblivious to realities: e.g. apparently training up a white lad as a mendicant sadhu, when Indian people are unlikely to give money to a white British man begging. Even the 1970s episodes seem to echo the old colonial idea of the 'white man's graveyard': the narrative intimates that the climate and the bugs are even bad for westerners who've been in India for several years, although an Indian doctor argues with the granddaughter that "this climate does not suit you people too well. And let alone you people, it does not suit even us." One feature of 1960s-70s hippie culture that has emerged from the shadows in recent years is how some women felt exploited because "free love" meant they felt obliged to have sex with men they didn't really want. Heat & Dust contains the first example I remember seeing from something written at the time: the unwantedness is clear, but so is a certain amount of buying-into the spiritual side. I don't think it's entirely a "white feminist" book, in that nebulous 21st century term on which I will certainly not claim to be any kind of expert. Perhaps there is a certain amount of cheap hippyish respect for natural local medicine and so forth, but there is a theme running through the book being subtly positive about greater solidarity between women. If Olivia had sought a respectable acquaintance with the Begum, or if she had gone to Simla with Beth, perhaps she would never have got into the mess she did with the Nawab. The two Bertha-from-Jane-Eyre figures still don't get a lot to say but they are at least shown to be victims rather than monsters; the granddaughter wants to arrange better treatment for the one in the 1970s, and she seems to be genuinely open to befriending some of the Indian women she meets (though we can't tell what they make of her). Other than a doctor or two, and possibly the Nawab's London-based grandson, the Indian men don't come out of this awfully well, in terms of specific characters or general descriptions. Though neither do most of the white British men, other than possibly Douglas, who had "the eyes of a boy who read adventure stories and had dedicated himself to live up to their code of courage and honour" (too normie and straightforward for Olivia ultimately?). The granddaughter sounds kind of optimistic at the end, but I felt the author wasn't very convinced by her either; I think RPJ treats everyone with detached cynicism, although some more politely than others. I'm not sure I'd really recommend Heat & Dust for anything other than some sort of academic project on early British post-colonial literature. I mean, the second I reached the end, I heard myself saying as if by a reflex, "thank fuck that's finished … that was a bit crap" - though hopefully the above paragraphs show it's not quite that simple, and I did kind of enjoy trying to analyse it. It is very short, so at least I wasn't bored for that long. And Booker completists will read it despite its not having aged terribly well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Smiley

    3.5 stars This was my first trial in reading Mrs Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's novel due to my disappointment with Ms Arundhati Roy's latest one entitled "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness" (Knopf 2017) in which I could not go on around page 30 even though I had immensely enjoyed reading her "The God of Small Things" (Fourth Estate 2009). For our better understanding, we should start with its brief synopsis: The beautiful, spoilt and bored Olivia, married to a civil servant, outrages society in the tiny, 3.5 stars This was my first trial in reading Mrs Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's novel due to my disappointment with Ms Arundhati Roy's latest one entitled "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness" (Knopf 2017) in which I could not go on around page 30 even though I had immensely enjoyed reading her "The God of Small Things" (Fourth Estate 2009). For our better understanding, we should start with its brief synopsis: The beautiful, spoilt and bored Olivia, married to a civil servant, outrages society in the tiny, suffocating town of Satipur by eloping with an Indian prince. Fifty years later, her step-granddaughter goes back to the heat, the dust and the squalor of the bazaars to solve the enigma of Olivia's scandal. (back cover) However, when we read the four-line Goodreads one (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...), there is a key word denoting her writing technique, that is 'interwoven'. As we can see from the first page with an anonymous narrator, Olivia's step-granddaughter, called herself 'I' who set the scene in nearly two pages and started her journal entries fifty years later (that is in 1973) on 2, 16, 20, 24 February (11+ pages) then flashbacked (interwoven) to the year 1923 (6 pages) depicting Olivia's story. Having an intermission by an asterisk, the journal resumed writing on 28 February (4+ pages), then the year 1923 again [I scribbled ? nearby]. If you understand her technique, you could guess that after reading some 23 pages after this 1923 you would read another series of the entries with recorded dates and months. This writing cycle goes on like this till the end, neither chapter nor topic is available. One of the difficulties is that some Indian terms seemingly unfamiliar to its readers have occasionally been used, for example, the Nawab, the Begum, the Baba, etc.; therefore, they simply stare in the face with vague understanding or in the dark. As for me, I guessed from the context and thought the Nawab should be an honorable title [an independent ruler (p. 78)], the Begum his mother, the Baba a holy man. As for its plot, I think, we can keep going and arguably enjoy her narrations and dialogs; however, there is something related to the step-granddaughter whose unnecessarily absurd and precarious indulgence is so dramatic that it is unimaginably stunning and I just wonder why and if what she has done is morally right since what she has committed reveals her carnal relations with Chid, a vagrant Hindu sadhu with his flat Midlands accent so I console myself that everyone can be capable of doing anything fictitious as part of fiction imagined by its author. In conclusion, what I would say about this novel as her debut to me is that I was a bit disappointed for some reason; therefore, I think I should try reading hers more as an exploratory means like how I have satisfactorily done with the fictions and nonfictions by Mr Graham Greene.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    I’d been looking forward to reading this book, not least because Ruth Prawer Jhabvala wrote the screenplays for wonderful films such as A Room With A View and Howards End, and a personal favourite of mine, The Remains of the Day. I’m also drawn to books set in India. Lastly, because Heat and Dust won the Man Booker Prize in 1975, although admittedly that year there was only one other book on the shortlist – Thomas Keneally’s Gossip From the Forest. You can understand my disappointment then that I’d been looking forward to reading this book, not least because Ruth Prawer Jhabvala wrote the screenplays for wonderful films such as A Room With A View and Howards End, and a personal favourite of mine, The Remains of the Day. I’m also drawn to books set in India. Lastly, because Heat and Dust won the Man Booker Prize in 1975, although admittedly that year there was only one other book on the shortlist – Thomas Keneally’s Gossip From the Forest. You can understand my disappointment then that I didn’t like Heat and Dust as much as I’d hoped. Told in alternating story lines from the point of view of Olivia and her step-granddaughter (the narrator), the book moves between the 1920s and the 1970s as the narrator seeks to piece together the story of Olivia, supposedly from her letters and journals (but more of that later) and by retracing her steps, visiting the places Olivia lived in India. Throughout the book, there is a real sense of history repeating itself in the lives of the two women. Sometimes it’s a case of mistakes of the past being repeated, sometimes it’s the two women making different choices when faced with the same dilemma and sometimes it’s just the author’s clever inclusion of subtle echoes between the two timelines, such as visits to the same places. The author evokes the atmosphere of the Indian cities and countryside through which both women travel. However, they each have quite different responses to the India they encounter. Olivia’s experience is one of boredom and isolation, of long days spent alone while her husband, Douglas, is at work, mixing just with other Europeans and then only at weekly dinner parties where very little of the culture of India is allowed to intrude. In a reference to the book’s title, ‘The rest of the time Olivia was alone in her big house with all the doors and windows shut to keep out the heat and dust.’ The narrator’s response is almost the complete opposite. She embraces the atmosphere of India and, rather than feeling closed in, feels freer than she did back in England, as she emulates her Indian neighbours by sleeping outside at night because of the heat. ‘I lie awake for hours: with happiness, actually. I have never known such a sense of communion. Lying like this under the open sky there is a feeling of being immersed in space – though not in empty space, for there are all these people sleeping all around me, the whole town and I am part of it. How different from my often very lonely room in London with only my own walls to look at and my books to read.’ I suppose I should have felt sympathy for Olivia’s frustration but I’m afraid I couldn’t because she seemed so unprepared to do anything about it that didn’t involve destroying her marriage. I couldn’t decide if her professed devotion to her husband, Douglas, was actually that or in fact more reliance or dependence on him. Olivia also comes across as spoiled and self-centered. For example, when she first encounters the Nawab at a party in his palace and he appears to single her out for attention, her reaction is that ‘here at last was one person in India to be interested in her the way she was used to’. What? Similarly, Olivia professes to be ‘by no means a snob’ (she prefers to think of herself as ‘aesthetic’, as if that excuses what follows) but on a visit to the sick Mrs. Saunders, she describes that poor lady as ‘still the same unattractive woman lying in bed in a bleak, gloomy house’. Also, Olivia muses that Mrs. Saunders’ accent ‘was not that of a too highly educated person’. Right, so not a snob then. I also really struggled to understand why Olivia (or anyone else, for that matter) should be attracted to the Nawab. He comes across as arrogant and manipulative – bordering on coercive – especially towards Harry, the young Englishman he has supposedly befriended. At one point, Harry says of the Nawab, ‘He’s a very strong person’, admitting ‘one does not say no to such a person’. The Nawab seems unashamed of his influence over Harry, to the point of self-righteousness, saying to Olivia and Douglas at one point, ‘But don’t you see, Mr. and Mrs. Rivers, he is like a child that doesn’t know what it wants! We others have to decide everything for him’. Olivia is so under the Nawab’s spell, however, that her reaction is – amazingly – to envy Harry ‘for having inspired such a depth of love and friendship’. At the beginning of the book, the narrator comments that ‘India always changes people, and I have been no exception’. She goes on to say, ‘But this is not my story, it is Olivia’s as far as I can follow it’. My trouble was that I was never sure exactly by what means the narrator was telling Olivia’s story because the reader is often party to Olivia’s thoughts, and to Douglas’s on some occasions. Clearly, that insight couldn’t be derived purely from Olivia’s letters and journals. Furthermore, by the end of the book, how much more does the reader actually know about why Olivia acted the way she did and the consequences of her actions? Even the narrator admits ‘there is no record of what she [Olivia] became later, neither in our family nor anywhere else as far as I know. More and more I want to find out…’ You and me both, I thought. Heat and Dust is interesting from the point of view of comparing the experiences of India by two women separated by fifty years and I liked the way the author created echoes of the earlier timeline in the later one. However, I found it difficult to engage with the key characters and some of their actions and attitudes.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    It took less than a day to read this - 180 pages long and easy to read - but it's a rich and fruitful book. It comprises two stories in parallel: the tale of Olivia who abandons her British husband when she goes to India; and of her un-named relative who goes to Satipur some fifty years later to solve the mystery of what became of Olivia. She ends up becoming 'seduced' by India too. Olivia is naive but adventurous, and she doesn't like the other British wives and their disdain for Indian religion It took less than a day to read this - 180 pages long and easy to read - but it's a rich and fruitful book. It comprises two stories in parallel: the tale of Olivia who abandons her British husband when she goes to India; and of her un-named relative who goes to Satipur some fifty years later to solve the mystery of what became of Olivia. She ends up becoming 'seduced' by India too. Olivia is naive but adventurous, and she doesn't like the other British wives and their disdain for Indian religion and culture. She is bored by their vapid lifestyle, and she outrages 'society' by visiting the local Naweb, an impoverished rogue in league with the Dacoits (bandits). The Naweb seems to exert a strange magnetic influence on those around him, including Harry, Olivia's only discerning friend and the one who helps her out when things go awry. In the process of discovering these scandals about her great-aunt , the narrator finds herself following in some of her footsteps. However, whereas during the British Raj Olivia was isolated from the 'real India' by class, caste and custom whatever her wishes may have been, in post-independence India her successor lives amongst Indians, and can make different decisions about how to live her life. Once again India is depicted as a place that attracts those interested in its 'spirituality' but the dropout Chid's distaste for life as a mendicant shows just how silly it is for affluent outsiders to hanker for a life of poverty and hardship. The title shows that Jhabvala had no illusions about the reality of life for most Indians. I finished reading and journalled this book on 13.10.05. Cross-posted at The Complete Booker: http://completebooker.blogspot.com.au...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    The opening of this book tells that Olivia finds her way to the Nawab (a minor Indian Prince), leaving her husband. I have had a string of reading lately where there is marital trouble and I wasn't exactly in the mood for another. But this felt entirely different. Olivia seems wholeheartedly in love with Douglas, her husband, and he with her. So what happened? Olivia's story takes place in 1923 when the British ruled India. Her story is told by Olivia's step-granddaughter. There are two stories The opening of this book tells that Olivia finds her way to the Nawab (a minor Indian Prince), leaving her husband. I have had a string of reading lately where there is marital trouble and I wasn't exactly in the mood for another. But this felt entirely different. Olivia seems wholeheartedly in love with Douglas, her husband, and he with her. So what happened? Olivia's story takes place in 1923 when the British ruled India. Her story is told by Olivia's step-granddaughter. There are two stories of two Indias because the granddaughter also has a story, alternating with Olivia's throughout. I liked them both. Part of what kept me reading was to find out why the granddaughter came to India. The prose is good, though not beautiful - there is no sentence I wanted to read again because it was beautiful. I did read this one twice: He wanted to linger, but his syce stood holding his horse, his peon carried his files, his bearer stood waiting with his solar topee. The "he/his" was Douglas, Olivia's husband. It indicates the kind of lifestyle enjoyed by the British while they ruled. I think the characterizations of the two women could have been more fully-fleshed, though the women were real enough for the novel to be believable. I'd like to stretch this to 5-stars, but it just doesn't quite make it. It's better than a middlin' 4-stars, though.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    6.5/10 Ho hummmmm ..... Always the same story, isn’t it? And when there’s nothing new to say, just don’t say it. Paul Scott re-visited E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, and surpassed him by a country mile. After Scott, there was nothing left to say about India. They should have given Jhabvala’s Booker to Scott for one of his other novels in the Raj Quartet. (As it was, they only gave him one, for Staying On.) When Booker starts making sense, I’ll read more Bookers. As it stands, I now read them, on 6.5/10 Ho hummmmm ..... Always the same story, isn’t it? And when there’s nothing new to say, just don’t say it. Paul Scott re-visited E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, and surpassed him by a country mile. After Scott, there was nothing left to say about India. They should have given Jhabvala’s Booker to Scott for one of his other novels in the Raj Quartet. (As it was, they only gave him one, for Staying On.) When Booker starts making sense, I’ll read more Bookers. As it stands, I now read them, on the main, because somebody in book club gets a hankering. I happily avoid them, for good reason, this one being a prime example. Ok. Tantrum finished. But buoy is set: read this if you need a good snooze under a banyan tree. Otherwise, find Scott’s Quartet and be prepared to have heart and mind changed forever on India.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Trudie

    This is a lovely little novel. It immerses you in two different yet parallel India's. One of colonial 1923 and the other independence circa 1970s. It is very hard not to draw comparisons with E.M Fosters great novel "A Passage to India" both dealing with the English/Indian cultural clash and the somewhat mystical draw of India on the European character. I have a particular fondness for literature dealing with the follies of Englishman in foreign lands so this slight novel really appealed. My onl This is a lovely little novel. It immerses you in two different yet parallel India's. One of colonial 1923 and the other independence circa 1970s. It is very hard not to draw comparisons with E.M Fosters great novel "A Passage to India" both dealing with the English/Indian cultural clash and the somewhat mystical draw of India on the European character. I have a particular fondness for literature dealing with the follies of Englishman in foreign lands so this slight novel really appealed. My only complaint is it does end rather abruptly, I could have read a much longer novel with both Olivia and the Nawab as central characters.

  13. 5 out of 5

    George K. Ilsley

    The winner of the Booker Prize, this slim novel packs a big punch. There is one timeline from 1923 ("Olivia's story") and a second contemporary (1970's) timeline. Race, sexuality, spirituality, class systems, gender roles, layers of identity— all of these big tickets items are filtered through a deceptively spare narrative. This author is perhaps best known for being the screen writer/ collaborator on many of those wonderful Merchant Ivory productions.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Neha

    In your teens and 20s you are impatient to leave your roots and fly away to explore a whole new world, the charm of new, and in your 30s or 40s you think of going deeper and deeper to dig your roots, the hidden treasures, the legacy, the pas, the charm of old, even if it lies in Heat and Dust. This is what this book stands for, when a young woman, goes back to India to explore her family's ties and the underlying gossips or truth for that matter. She is different and she chooses a different life In your teens and 20s you are impatient to leave your roots and fly away to explore a whole new world, the charm of new, and in your 30s or 40s you think of going deeper and deeper to dig your roots, the hidden treasures, the legacy, the pas, the charm of old, even if it lies in Heat and Dust. This is what this book stands for, when a young woman, goes back to India to explore her family's ties and the underlying gossips or truth for that matter. She is different and she chooses a different life and journey for her. The choice to go digging into the old scandal when a British officers wife ran away with an Indian prince. The charm of a scandal, probably love or just plain simple boredom. Why do we do this? Why do we leave the comforts and security of home to explore the world or why we dig deeper rather than just grow and expand ourselves. Is it regressive or progressive. The question is why do we experiment or cherish. The basic nature of all human beings, this is what makes us different. We don't learn from our mistakes, we don't leave the past alone, we redo and relive assuming it will be different this time. Overall Heat and Dust is a simple well written story. It could be a story of any strange foreigner yousee roaming around the ruins of India exploring the Indian heritage or probably their own history thru the British regime of the past. History, heritage, heirlooms the only possessions, rest belongs to others. To read more Book Reviews and about Books, visit my Blog: Storywala

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erika

    A decent book. It actually brought me to tears in one particular instance: "Maji sat down under a tree and took the old woman's head in her lap. She stroked it with her thick peasant hands and looked down into the dying face. Suddenly the old woman smiled, her toothless mouth opened with the same recognition as a baby's. Were her eyes not yet sightless--could she see Maji looking down at her? Or did she only feel her love and tenderness? Whatever it was, that smile seemed like a miracle to me" (1 A decent book. It actually brought me to tears in one particular instance: "Maji sat down under a tree and took the old woman's head in her lap. She stroked it with her thick peasant hands and looked down into the dying face. Suddenly the old woman smiled, her toothless mouth opened with the same recognition as a baby's. Were her eyes not yet sightless--could she see Maji looking down at her? Or did she only feel her love and tenderness? Whatever it was, that smile seemed like a miracle to me" (114). I'm a little choked up again now. It's just such a powerful moment.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Courtney H.

    This is definitely one of my least favorite Bookers. It was dull, it was pretentious, and the main character was, in the words of Rizzo, a total drag. Which might have been somewhat forgivable if it didn't have such a promising start. Because Jhabvala is clearly a good writer, and though the book is in journal form -- not usually my favorite -- it paces nicely and the writing has a nice kind of precision to it (though somewhat pretentious, as mentioned before). More importantly, she introduces a This is definitely one of my least favorite Bookers. It was dull, it was pretentious, and the main character was, in the words of Rizzo, a total drag. Which might have been somewhat forgivable if it didn't have such a promising start. Because Jhabvala is clearly a good writer, and though the book is in journal form -- not usually my favorite -- it paces nicely and the writing has a nice kind of precision to it (though somewhat pretentious, as mentioned before). More importantly, she introduces a character that promises to be fascinating, flawed, human; someone sympathetic and -- dare I say? -- even admirable, in those early pages. She introduces us to a character who begins to push against the confines of colonialism and her colonial marriage, and you see her as being smart, suddenly engaged and questioning. You are excited for her development, even as you fear for what will come. But you know what you don't see coming? All the characters turning out to be jerks or stupid or both. She ends up playing into every conceivable, stupid stereotype, and our main heroine turns out to be a total ass. The end of the book -- which I think Jhabvala envisioned as seeming heroic and lovely -- is really just stupid and self-indulgent. And nothing in this book reads like Farrell or Paul Scott's Staying On. Jhabvala actually appears to take her characters totally seriously. It is quite obnoxious, and while basic obnoxiousness in a well-written book might warrant 3 stars, she gets docked for getting my hopes up for much better characters and a much better story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Reese

    3.5 stars - not because it wasn't well written but because I read Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's short story collection, Out of India: Selected Stories, prior to reading Heat and Dust, so the novel seemed less dynamic and compelling to me. 3.5 stars - not because it wasn't well written but because I read Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's short story collection, Out of India: Selected Stories, prior to reading Heat and Dust, so the novel seemed less dynamic and compelling to me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    1975 Booker An excellent, quick read that jumps back and forth in time between 1923 and 1970s India, concentrating on the lives of the wife of a British official in 1923 and her husband's granddaughter in the 1970s.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I found the novel fascinating with simple but captivating writing. Simple story but deep subtext about colonialism and class and gender and race although completely from the point of view of two British white womyn 50 years apart. I guess it’s an early version of desperate housewives; the British colonists version.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - 15 Minute Drama: A beguiling story of two English women living in India more than fifty years apart. In 1923, Olivia is unhappily married to a civil servant. Her step-granddaughter travels to the subcontinent years later to investigate Olivia's life, which her family regarded as 'something dark and terrible'. The story centres on the experiences of two very different women in pre- and post- Independence India. One is circumscribed by English mores and the formal social structure From BBC Radio 4 - 15 Minute Drama: A beguiling story of two English women living in India more than fifty years apart. In 1923, Olivia is unhappily married to a civil servant. Her step-granddaughter travels to the subcontinent years later to investigate Olivia's life, which her family regarded as 'something dark and terrible'. The story centres on the experiences of two very different women in pre- and post- Independence India. One is circumscribed by English mores and the formal social structures of the Raj while the other is free to fall in love, live among Indian people, feel part of the culture. So, it is the story of social change as well as a potent love story. 2/5: Harry comes to stay with the Rivers in an attempt to break free of the Nawab while the narrator visits the Baba Firdaus shrine on the Husbands' Wedding Day. 3/5: Olivia and Douglas hope for a baby. 4/5: Both women visit the Baba Firdaus shrine and make a wish. 5/5: Finding themselves in the same situation, both women must make life-changing decisions. Today, Olivia meets the Nawab while, fifty years later, her step-granddaughter settles into her new room. Pianist ..... Laurie O'Brien Directed by Gaynor Macfarlane. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06r4bz1

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ben Batchelder

    This is a very odd, Booker-winning book. Even the title is provocative. The heat is procreation, the dust death. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s unnamed narrator, referring to her alter-ego and ex-great aunt, puts it this way: The rest of the time Olivia was alone in her big house with all the doors and windows shut to keep out the heat and the dust. [p.17] So what Olivia at first shunned – the crush of humanity in India – the narrator embraces from the start, being, you see, more modern. Let all the birth This is a very odd, Booker-winning book. Even the title is provocative. The heat is procreation, the dust death. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s unnamed narrator, referring to her alter-ego and ex-great aunt, puts it this way: The rest of the time Olivia was alone in her big house with all the doors and windows shut to keep out the heat and the dust. [p.17] So what Olivia at first shunned – the crush of humanity in India – the narrator embraces from the start, being, you see, more modern. Let all the birthing and dying with all their human convulsions in! This is the fifth book on India I have read this year, due to one of my current projects, and the most puzzling. Given that I have slummed around India myself and lived the ex-patriate experience for a decade or two in another enigmatic foreign behemoth, I should have appreciated Jhabvala’s insights on these themes, but didn’t really. Oddly, the narrator’s first encounter upon arriving in India is with an unnamed missionary, presumably from England too, but already 30 years in India’s heat and dust, who counsels: Oh but I’ve seen some terrible sights in India...And through it all I’ve learned this one thing: you can’t live in India without Jesus Christ. If He’s not with you every single moment of the day and night and you praying to Him with all your might and main – if that’s not there, then you become like that poor man with the monkey taking lice out of his hair. [p.11] This is a cheap opening shot, for the rest of the narrative is set up to prove the missionary wrong. And an interesting narrative it is: the narrator is on a quest to understand her grandfather’s first wife who, boring of her memsahib role as wife of a British Colonial administrator, elopes with a local Muslim Prince. The narrator is obviously taken by Olivia – who was subsequently a persona non grata to the family– so much so that, in an overused literary trick, Olivia and the narrator start to meld, having the same experiences and reactions. Overused, for instead of jarring us once with the overlap, we are subjected to a number of them before the inevitable divergence occurs. (The novel continuously jumps from “present” to “past” stories. While the analepses, or flashbacks, are written conventionally by the narrator doing her research and fictionalizing what she finds, the narrator’s story is told unrealistically in elaborate journal entries.) What was scandalous in Olivia’s time – not only did she become pregnant by the Prince while still married, but chooses to abort, a worse crime in the ex-pat community – by the narrator’s era is almost banal. The narrator invites in another English wanderer, this one a bedraggled ascetic named Chid who, having renounced all earthly possessions takes possession of his host repeatedly: But he has constant erections and goes to a tremendous size, so that I am reminded of the Lord Shiva whose huge member is worshiped by devout Hindu women. [p.55] But that is not all. The narrator, a tall, strappling English woman who is jeered at as eunich-like by the neighborhood kids, seduces and beds her married landlord from downstairs, a struggling Indian whose wife is ill. By this time I am completely in favor of the Colonial Raj’s moral code, including the closing of the shutters against the heat and dust, versus the narrator’s faux humanity – though, I suspect, this is not how Jhabvala intended me to feel. Olivia’s tale ends in a kind of feminist auto-da-fé; after fleeing the hospital (recovering from the abortion’s after-shocks) and her marriage, she retires to the Himalayas where she lives alone in a house put up and kept by the Prince for the rest of her life. The narrator ends up pilgrimaging to the same hill top village where she – well, we don’t know what she does. The divergence had already occurred: when the narrator’s pregancy is about to be aborted by Maji (the town’s sorceress/wise woman; John Fowles’ The Magus comes to mind), using truly evil spiritual powers, the narrator yells “No please stop!” The narrator’s one truly good act, to not abort, is done for mystic reasons (she claims Maji’s “supernatural powers” [p.132] had willed it). After this, she runs pregnant to the hills where, presumably, she has the baby Olivia never had, and from the looks of it goes native – living out the family life that Olivia couldn’t – in an ashram. I couldn’t but think back to the ridiculed missionary woman from the book’s first pages. While she had exaggerated, saying “Because you see, dear, nothing human means anything here. Not a thing” (a straw woman if there every was one), I had to wonder if that bedraggled missionary, despite or perhaps because of her healthy distance from such an alien culture, would have done more good than a character like the narrator ever could. Then again, I’m just a contrarian. (Quotations from Heat and Dust, 1975; First Counterpoint paperback edition, 1999; paging from eBook.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark Fulk

    One of my favorite recent novelists, Jhabvala (who was also a noted screenwriter) manages to humbly enact a mostly non-colonialist relationship to India, which she models for her readers. Would that we in America today would be so humbled and kind in our relationship with others both within and without our country's borders! Jhabvala has an amazing sense of place and plot, moving effortlessly in and out of various women's (and men's) lives with sympathy and candour and understanding. This partic One of my favorite recent novelists, Jhabvala (who was also a noted screenwriter) manages to humbly enact a mostly non-colonialist relationship to India, which she models for her readers. Would that we in America today would be so humbled and kind in our relationship with others both within and without our country's borders! Jhabvala has an amazing sense of place and plot, moving effortlessly in and out of various women's (and men's) lives with sympathy and candour and understanding. This particular title won the Booker Prize, but all of her work carries this wonderful spirit.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aban (Aby)

    In this short novel the reader follows the stories of two English women: the narrator whose name is never revealed and Olivia, her step-grandmother. Set in 1923 during Colonial times and fifty years later in Independent India, the novel follows the narrator's attempt to trace Olivia's life: her dissatisfaction with being an administrator's wife and her attraction to an Indian ruler who offered her an escape from it. Both women become pregnant and, although the choices they make are different, th In this short novel the reader follows the stories of two English women: the narrator whose name is never revealed and Olivia, her step-grandmother. Set in 1923 during Colonial times and fifty years later in Independent India, the novel follows the narrator's attempt to trace Olivia's life: her dissatisfaction with being an administrator's wife and her attraction to an Indian ruler who offered her an escape from it. Both women become pregnant and, although the choices they make are different, they end up leaving the 'heat and dust' of the plains for the cool heights of the mountains. Olivia spent the rest of her life in India. We don't know what happened to the narrator. The writer's account of both Colonial and modern day India is both realistic and unromantic. She reveals the weakness and biases of Englishmen and Indians alike as well as the harsh reality of the lives they lead. (She was in a good position to do this, herself having married an Indian and lived in India for a quarter of a century.) However, her style of writing left me uninvolved with her characters, especially Olivia, though I had more empathy for the narrator. What did interest me was to see how different life in India was for the two women, one thwarted by boredom and convention from which she eventually escaped, the other free to make choices and follow her own inclinations.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Daren

    written in 1975, this book won the Booker prize of that year. Set in 'modern day' (of 1975), but with over half the novel recounting events which happened fifty years prior, this books covers two very different times in India. It is set in Satipur, in Uttar Pradesh. Our main character in modern day is unnamed, but is visiting India to investigate the story of her step-grandmother (her fathers, fathers first wife - her father was the child of the second wife). The story of Olivia Rivers (in 1923), i written in 1975, this book won the Booker prize of that year. Set in 'modern day' (of 1975), but with over half the novel recounting events which happened fifty years prior, this books covers two very different times in India. It is set in Satipur, in Uttar Pradesh. Our main character in modern day is unnamed, but is visiting India to investigate the story of her step-grandmother (her fathers, fathers first wife - her father was the child of the second wife). The story of Olivia Rivers (in 1923), is a family embarrassment - she crossed cultural lines and shocked society when she had an affair with an Indian Prince (the Nawab), and falls pregnant. Olivia feels smothered by the social restrictions of a colonial wife, with her husbands stuffy British colleagues and friends, and is befriended the charismatic Nawab, spending her spare time with him and his live-in British friend Harry. The characters are well defined, especially the stuffy British wives, who live up to the colonial stereotype, the Indian characters remain interesting and traditional. The story is well woven, with plenty of overlap between the two time periods. An easy and excellent read. 4 stars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tori

    It was a cool look into what India was like post-British colonialism. You got to see parallels in today's, or 1970's at least, Indian society too, the book kind of shows that India has taken old British Imperialism from their past and taken it over for their own particular ways of living. The author seems to think Indian culture will *always* change a person entering it, whether for the person's better or worse, and demonstrates this in the exact same story through a woman and her great-great aun It was a cool look into what India was like post-British colonialism. You got to see parallels in today's, or 1970's at least, Indian society too, the book kind of shows that India has taken old British Imperialism from their past and taken it over for their own particular ways of living. The author seems to think Indian culture will *always* change a person entering it, whether for the person's better or worse, and demonstrates this in the exact same story through a woman and her great-great aunt. The story itself was kind of weak in my opinion, it started off strong, but the ending just showed up out of no where, it was completely rushed, and then to top it all off, there was no real resolution, and I love me some resolutions! I guess Ms. Jhabvala was striving for a "lost in history" kind of ending where no one knew what happened to the great-great aunt so the story kind of ended....and now no one will know what happened to the main character, her descendant. I WANTED TO KNOW!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Evin Ashley

    A story about the complicated facets of love and power, and how we often do not strive for what we most desire; it is always within our reach, if we are brave enough. A brief, sardonic summary: Olivia: It’s so hot here! There’s so much dust! My dear Douglas is right; English women weren’t meant for the heat. I’m bored and passive aggressive, and entirely unwilling to go out of my comfort zone to cultivate independent thought. To remain in disingenuous infatuation with the man I am married to, I wi A story about the complicated facets of love and power, and how we often do not strive for what we most desire; it is always within our reach, if we are brave enough. A brief, sardonic summary: Olivia: It’s so hot here! There’s so much dust! My dear Douglas is right; English women weren’t meant for the heat. I’m bored and passive aggressive, and entirely unwilling to go out of my comfort zone to cultivate independent thought. To remain in disingenuous infatuation with the man I am married to, I will slip into an affair with tangible consequences I avoid considering! Douglas: I would prefer to stay in my comfort zone and marry a woman who never exerts her opinions forcefully. Isn’t she sweet? That way, I will feel safe and in control, always. Until she becomes pregnant with another man’s child. Nawab: All you British people are the same. I’m going to f*ck your wife.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Catawsumb

    This short novel had been on my shelf for years. I probably originally bought it because of my great admiration for the scripts she wrote for Merchant-Ivory films. This is great too. Interwoven stories of Anglo-Indians in two time periods. Quite romantic and lovely writing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bev Taylor

    olivia's step grand daughter travels to india 50 years later to try to resolve the enigma of her scandal the story is told alternately between the two women and it is amazing how some events and acts r reflected upon each other i found it difficult to really connect with olivia but the breadth of the history of the country and it's people is a real eye opener made into a film many decades ago with julie christie and greta scacchi less than 200 pages which some will like and some will not bev

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joakim

    Mostly set in British India, it is the story of Olivia - a married British woman and her fling with a minor Prince/Nawab. We will never get to know why Olivia decided to cheat on her husband. Perhaps it was the boredom, perhaps the fact her husband mostly went away for work. We get to meet different characters and caricatures of the period and get a fascinating glimpse into British India and dynamism of its people.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christian Engler

    After finishing Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's 1975 Booker-Prize winning novel set in India during the British Raj, I will admit, I was puzzled at the degree of kudos that this most mediocre novel received. To say that the book was lackluster in its conveyance of colonialism in India is barely hitting the mark in its accuracy. And to put it on the same shelf as A Passage to India is completely laughable, thus illustrating once again that overzealous literary critics are only too eager to press forth ont After finishing Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's 1975 Booker-Prize winning novel set in India during the British Raj, I will admit, I was puzzled at the degree of kudos that this most mediocre novel received. To say that the book was lackluster in its conveyance of colonialism in India is barely hitting the mark in its accuracy. And to put it on the same shelf as A Passage to India is completely laughable, thus illustrating once again that overzealous literary critics are only too eager to press forth onto the public reading material that would not warrant their time nor their effort. If one is inspired by literary prizes, like the Booker Prize that this novel received, I would caution readers to check it out from the library rather than buying the book; you can be your own critic and do yourself a minor economic service. The novel is about how social constraints can lead people to actions that are less than desirable, and the main character, Olivia, makes many undesirable choices, the paramount one of them being that she aborts the baby of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince (in the territory) whom she has befriended and unexpectedly fallen in love with, despite the fact that she is happily married to Douglas, a junior British officer and bureaucrat. In the novel, there is really no inking that the marriage is cracking up and splitting Douglas and Olivia away from each other, and it is that deliberate ambiguity that makes the work not fully fleshed out and believable. The only hint that the marriage is not as solid as it appears is that Olivia wants a baby and Douglas holds off. But that is speculation, at best. And if that is indeed the case and thus the causal effect for Olivia's later actions, it puts an extreme negative spotlight on her. Understanding the social constraints of a specific milieu or period is one thing but compounding that with a British aristocratic sauce is just highly not credible, no matter what literary devices and creative liberty are executed upon the story as a whole. It does not make the plot a success. In fact, it barely rises to that bar. The reasoning given for Olivia's predicament almost borders as an experience on the Magic Carpet Ride after an LSD trip, for being in love with India is a dangerous thing for the European mindset. People let their cares down and in one fell swoop nonstop unwanted pregnancies occur, for it correlates to the woman's desire to experience love, lust and motherhood. But, naturally, due to socioeconomic constraints, the latter is never followed through with. Heat and Dust is extremely one-sided, and a worldview of options is not available, much less pondered. Heat and Dust is primarily two stories that are interwoven to create one novel. The first story, as indicated, revolves around Olivia, a bored British officer's wife who longs for motherhood and is somewhat coming to grips with the exotic locations of her husband's assigned posts, for where ever he is assigned, she too is there. She has a conventional view of herself, and in turn, expects a kind of orthodoxy for the whole of her life. Considering the times that she is living in, that is a facet of her life that is truthful. Unfortunately, it is the only truthful element to the whole book. Olivia is not a particularly bright woman with any sense of foresight and intuitiveness. She is absolutely a stunted character, who, like her dim-witted husband, can not see the forest through the trees. Their limitations and or flaws just do not seem credible. Or perhaps it is the fault of the magic of India? Give me a break! The second part of the novel, though minor, deals with a female relation of Douglas's who also visits India and in turn winds up in a similar position that Olivia was herself once in. There is an emotional connection that the relation feels for Olivia, especially when she reads old letters and journals belonging to the Scarlet Lettered mythical woman. The letters and journals are used almost as survival how-to guides for getting along in India - definitely a warped view of things. Yet, they are somehow sisters or feminists-in-arms. Though the relation is more emancipated than Olivia ever was, she too is a flat and distantly written character; she almost gets her rocks off by Olivia's experience, which (I am only assuming) she deems as compelling and empowering. Yet, there no true elaboration as to why she feels the way that she does. I can only surmise that she is viewing Olivia and her actions from a historical context, that women like Olivia just don't do what she did. In the whole picture, it really was not all that great and admirable. Religiously, Olivia could be compared to the Eve of the Old Testament and the cousin who keeps her baby could be considered Mary in the New Testament. But that would be a huge stretch based solely upon interpretation. For me, what I did not like overall about Heat and Dust is that women often have to be placed in the worst case scenarios and have to make truly horrific actions against themselves in order to be deemed heroines for future generations. It is such a predictable and overused plot in fiction nowadays. The work was just bland and the plot was ridiculous. While the writing was technically good, the book overall belonged in the bucket of Booker-Prize bummers.

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