Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Splendor of Silence

by Indu Sundaresan. Washington Square Press, 2006.

A cold moon washed the skies as the single, black caterpillar line of the night train to Rudrakot cleaved through the Sukh desert.

That's the first line of the novel The Splendor of Silence. I just snuggled down under the quilt and wiggled with pleasure when I read that. I didn't come up for air until it was hours past my bedtime. I just love a juicy novel about complicated, passionate people living in far distance places having dangerous adventures.

Sam is on a four day leave from the American OSS in 1942. He has just returned from Burma and is on his way to the fictional northwestern Indian state of Rudrakot. He is healing from a shoulder injury he sustained while rescuing a missionary from behind Japanese lines. He is also looking for his younger brother Mike, who is on a secret mission of his own. Sam stays at the home of the Indian political agent Raman, who is in charge of the state of Rudrakot in the Raj's absence. Sam falls breathlessly in love with Raman's daughter Mila, who is promised to the Raj.

Their four day love affair results in a daughter, Olivia, who learns of her mother's life and legacy when she receives a trunk full of her belonging for her 21st birthday. Sam has died in a car crash just five days previously, so Olivia never gets to put the pieces of her life's story together with her beloved father present.

I agree with Major Bedhead, this book would be a fabulous book club read. You've got the historical background, the war, the Indian cultural and political climate on the cusp of independence, as well as the sharpness of the love story. What holds it all together is the intrigue and the tension between expectation and desire.

Here are links I found to give you a better picture:

Other reviews:

The Hindu: "A Raj tale that bubbles at a measured pace."

Indian Tribune

Interview with Indu Sundaresan

This post is part of a Mother Talk blog tour. Go read what other bloggers have to say about it here.


tanita✿davis said...

I'm not sure which is cooler -- the book description or your description of your delight. I thought I was the only one who did Happy Book Dances!!! Cheers!

Liz Dwyer said...

This looks really good. I'm adding it to my, "To-Read" list.

Marjorie said...

I'm a total sucker for great first lines ... thanks for noting this one!