The Far Pavilions is a sweeping epic of India in the 1800’s. Ashton Pelham-Martyn was born in India to British parents but was raised as a native Indian after the death of his parents, making him never feel completely at home in either culture. Anjuli is a half-caste princess whose mixed background also causes her tribulation and pain. The story takes the reader on a rich journey through wars, tribulations, hope and romance, teaching us that love can truly conquer all in the end.
Sissy: Back in the day when I first read this I was enchanted by the imagery and senses evoked by the writing in this epic tale. I could see the purple shadowed “Far Pavilions” mountains, smell the spices of India and see the bright, bold saris worn by the Indian Princesses. I wanted to go to India then, and I still do.
Bubby: I really feel that we should stop writing right now and pop off to “The Bombay House” and fortify ourselves with a little chicken kurma and roti. Seems appropriate, doesn’t it Sissy?
Sissy: Ah, that sounds divine!
Bubby: As I was refreshing my memory of this book I found that I could get the 1984 miniseries (Ben Cross, Omar Sharif!) and immediately started watching it – boy did I get comments from the kids! I didn’t get to finish so if you can’t get my attention in the next few days, it’s because I’m watching The Far Pavilions! It’s such a grand sweeping epic – not to be missed, either in book form or movie.
Sissy: I remember when the miniseries came out–I was so excited. I was skeptical about Amy
Irving playing an Indian princess, but she pulled it off. This go round I listened to the “The Far Pavilions” on fully dramatized audiobook, and it was great. I loved the music and the accents. It is frustrating, though, to hear all that they have to go through before they finally get together (is that a spoiler?). Princess Anjuli is too loyal to her sister, in my opinion, and that causes lots of unnecessary anguish.
Bubby: I have to say that I fell in love with our main characters just for their names. Who can resist Princess Anjuli and Ashton Pelham-Martyn? Just delicious. Add to that the story of a boy who is English but was unknowingly raised Indian, a forbidden love affair and the struggles between British rule and Indian autonomy. Fabulous.
Sissy: Agreed. I also am going to watch the mini-series so that I can have the full sensory experience again. One of my favorite characters was Koda Dad, the protector of the princesses and the prince, who also becomes close to Ash. Played by Omar Sharif in the mini-series, by the way.
Bubby: Omar Sharif! He’s up there with Sean Connery and Cary Grant in the fantastic hot old guys list. Sorry, I got distracted there for a minute. Wow – you should all hear the noise that is coming from Sissy’s kitchen right now. Sounds like a herd of rabid rampaging elephants! M.M. Kaye is one of the most descriptive writers I have ever had the privilege of reading. Within the first 20 pages you feel that you are right there in India in the 1800’s. You can almost smell and taste and feel everything that she is writing about. It’s rather amazing.
Sissy: I’ve sent the elephants back to the Maharaja’s stables, now, and I’ll have Mustaq, the stable boy, clean up their “leavings.” After that I shall retire to my mosquito netting covered bed, pat some patchouli on my temples, drink some mango lassi, and finger my forehead jewel. M.M. Kaye’s sweeping epic of romance and adventure in colonial India inspires me thus, and I give it 4 bubbles.
Bubby: I have to put in a few disclaimers before I rate this book. First off, this is a HUGE book – 960 pages. Secondly, it is violent. We have wars, uprisings, ritual burnings – but it’s not gory. And all the violence is integral to the storyline. Thirdly, the ending is not storybook perfect. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not Disney Princesses happy ever after. All this being said, I still think everyone should read The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye at least once in their life. And watch the miniseries too. 5 bubbles.