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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Before the Rains by Dinah Jeffries

Title: Before the Rains
Author: Dinah Jefferies
Publisher: 23 February 2017 by Penguin Books (UK) Viking
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, historical fiction, romance, cultural-India
My Rating: 5 crowns


A romantic, heart-wrenching tale of love against the odds from the Number One Sunday Times bestselling author Dinah Jefferies
1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband's death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza's only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she's determined to make a name for herself.
But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince's handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families - and society - think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what's expected, or following their hearts. . .

My Thoughts

‘She had come to India uncertain about herself and nervous of her abilities as a photographer. She had come not really knowing who she was.’

Having seen the inviting covers of Dinah Jeffries books, I was excited to finally delve into one. I was not disappointed. This is historical fiction at its best -  rich in detail and oh so interesting,  I learnt so much, this book literally being brushed with Indian spices, both real and figurative, as we journey along with Eliza. Tradition is the foundation of this society and Jeffries presents it in a most intriguing and captivating way. Her writing is so very descriptive, as you find yourself walking through the palace, feeling the searing heat, smelling the scents of India.

‘Hidden beneath the rituals and customs of his life lay something important, something that glued it all together.’

Before the Rains is set in  India during the 1920s, and thanks to Jeffries skill as a writer,  one can easily either marvel at the decadent royal families and British high society, so much in contrast with the abject poverty of so many of the people. This is a tale about Eliza, a photographer commissioned to spend a year photographing the royal family for British archives, reportedly, although spying might also play a part. Eliza is familiar with India, having spent her childhood there until her father's horrific death, so she feels a strong connection, going to great lengths to understand and showcase this through her photography - the real face of the people, their customs and traditions. Add to this a forbidden love story between Eliza and Jay, a younger brother of the Indian prince, and you have a recipe for a winning tale.

‘More and more she’d become aware that the British should get out of India. Her only hope was that the Nationalist movement would gain control without too much bloodshed.’

Aside from a captivating story, Jeffries brings forth so much of the colours of India - customs, traditions, beliefs at the time of British rule - it is as if you were there. With a declining British rule, you are witness to the effect on the people and the consequences that fall out from that.  Everything from euphoric ‘Holi’ celebrations to the horrific ‘sati’ (widow burning). Then there are the settings ranging from palatial royal homes to mud huts in remote villages. You will be transported to another place and time and feel for Eliza and all she endeavours to become in recreating herself.

‘Eliza hardly dared admit that she had come to rediscover something within herself.’

Before the Rains is historical fiction at it’s best overflowing with culture, forbidden love, longed for happiness, heartbreaking grief and finally hope – I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and highly recommend it to lovers of historical fiction.

‘She really wanted to capture something of the rains themselves. Everyone spoke of them in such reverent tones that she wanted to see for herself.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final rel

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