In a Far Country is the third, and apparently, last book of Linda Holeman's tentative trilogy based in India and Afghanistan. Like the other two books before it, this book is set during India's colonial age. You really get an intimate glimpse into the lives of the English living in India, and their struggle to preserve their own culture and some of their arrogant, imperialist thinking.
More brillantly, every page is rife with vivid descriptions of the colorful culture of India, especially the interesting interactions between the different peoples. It felt like everyone was in India at that time: the English, the Americans, the Pushtuns, the Rajasthani, the Uzbeks, the Hazaras, the Tajiks and so many more. And each is described in detail: their culture, their appearance, their clothing, their food' you really get a sense of the individuality of the cultures yet also how they dynamically interact and regard one another, and ultimately make up the distinct culture of India at the time.
In the midst of this is Pree Fincastle, who is really a great example of this cultural diversity. She speaks Hindi, Urdu, English and Pasto. She is so much a part of the English culture, yet she is also deeply immersed in the Indian one. She is raised by Christians, but does not embrace God wholeheartedly as her parents wish her to. This story is about her search for her own identity: is she English like her missionary parents, or is she Indian, as she feels at heart? Ultimately, does it really matter? In this sense this story resonates with me, because I often feel like I'm split into several cultures myself. Being not truly part of one culture, or part of another culture in my heritage is sometimes very lonely because you don't feel like you belong with any group in particular. Actually, though, you are like a bridge between cultures, having an intimate glimpse of different worlds and that's something special.
I had to read this with the Google window open, because there was so much I wanted to learn about. Especially the different Indian foods. I love Indian food, but there were things described that I've never tasted before. And, I had to look up a map of India to find out where some of the places described were. Linda Holeman must have done so much research to write so seamlessly about this historical time period. Not only does she have to know about the Victorian Age and notions of that time (science, politics etc.) but also about India itself. The writing was very true and natural, as if someone who had experienced such a story had really sat down and decided to write about it. As I was reading, I became Pree and could imagine the emotions and thoughts she was going through, her search for somewhere to belong, her identity, the injustices, her love for Kai, and just the simple every day sensations of India: the sweltering heat, the smells of the spices, the starched white panjammahs. It all adds to a very well-stitched tapestry of a story. The book can sometimes be very dark yet it also has its very liberating moments.
The novel may look very thick and dauting to some of you, who don't normally read historical fiction, but it truly reads lightning fast. Even now, with the cold, damp rain splattering my window, changing the world to a grey landscape, and the fog settling over the horizon, my mind is In a Far Country where the sun is beating down languidly on a hot afternoon'
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