Comment: I've started this book a week ago, more or less. I saw it mentioned at one of the book related sites I often visit and the fact it contained a forbidden romance with a happy ending for the couple somehow convinced me to get it. I managed to buy a hardcover edition, all 960 pages of it, for a very low price at amazon.UK and there it went to the pile. This was by the end of last year and I convinced a friend to read it with me. Too bad my friend hasn't much time to buddy readings... anyway, this was our pick for this month.
In this epic tale, we follow the life of Ashton Pelham-Martyn, a British citizen born in India and who always felt like that country was his real home. After a fascinating but challenging childhood he goes to England where he dreams of returning to the place in his heart. As soon as he can, he enlists in the army and goes back to India, as a British officer.
In India, politics and military actions are changing the way the British live and are welcomed but to Ash all that is irrelevant for he has always thought of India as a place that shouldn't need any other nation ruling it. However, when fate intervenes and he meets his childhood friend Anjuli again, his actions and goals change and he will do anything to follow his own wishes...
This is certainly an epic story and plot. It follows hero Ash since his birth to the moment he goes to live in his dream place, the Far Pavillions he wants to be in since he was a little boy looking at a distance. The story is basically the tale of his adventures, the steps he takes towards different goals throughout the book and how he fails or gains what he needs. In terms of sagas, this is impressive, even more so by the huge amount of detail the author has included to describe, tell and solve several situations.
It's clear the author knows all themes extremely well and she felt dedicated to tell such a story and share so many elements. I didn't dislike the writing, I think it accomplished its role but I have to admit I also found some parts to be very boring, namely when it concerned to military situations or strategy plans, whether British or related to the Hindu or other people. The book is divided into 8 sections, all focusing on a different stage of Ash's life. The last two, when things were more or less solved were too much. I think the author could have told things in a different, more direct and simple way and still maintain the style and type of writing. I understand this need for detail, the amount of knowledge and History to be shared but in terms of fictional plotting, it was boring and I struggled to focus, especially after so many pages already.
The plot has its moments, to me the best parts were the beginning, when we get to meet Ash, his background life, his experiences as a boy and at the same time how India saw those who lived there, Hindu or foreigners. I also liked all the parts where Ash, already a grown man, wants to help the people he knew as a boy and pursues Anjuli, the girl who followed him almost everywhere and who now has a fate so far apart from his own. The romance in this book is very subtle, not the focus but it allows for several plot moves. It also makes it possible for the reader to learn a lot about Hindu traditions and so many things inherent to India, some of them still on these days.
I was eager to read about Ash and Juli, both together or apart because those sections were vibrant and has this demand about them. When the romance situation got sort of solved at the end of section 6, we still had two more to go but it had so little to matter about Juli or Ash' personal life and goals that it got boring.
What it got instead was something I consider unnecessary, too much death of important characters and that only served to make this dramatic in a way it didn't had to, even if the author wanted to highlight these facts from the British presence in Kabul and other areas. Boredom plus annoyance aren't good mates in reading...
I think this is a well detailed story, filled with real facts and situations, something that should teach and impress the reader. There are many things I looked for to see and enjoyed knowing about, but less pages describing avoidable situations and things that wouldn't aid the plot, no matter how interesting or realistic, just didn't have to be included.
I appreciated the effort, I feel glad I went through with reading but I confess Ash and Juli, the main characters, weren't always so amazing and vibrant to the point of making me sad I left them. I feel worse about certain things I wouldn't have added but...anyway, it's an interesting epic story but yes, it's not the best thing ever to me.