14 February 2017

Blog Tour: Book Review: Before the Rains by Dinah Jeffries

"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. . ."

Rating: 4.5/5

I read my first book by Dinah Jefferies last year, The Tea Planter's Wife, and was completely blown away by that story. Therefore, when I was offered the chance to be part of the blog tour for Dinah's  new book Before the Rains, I was very eager to do so. This book is the story of Eliza, and an Indian Prince called Jay. Eliza is employed as a photographer, there to photograph the Royal family as they go about their daily lives, but finds her life in India to be a little lonely. She befriends the Prince, and finds out there is more to him that meets the eye. He is determined to do good in his country, and seems happy to go against his family to fulfill his wishes. However, not everyone is happy about the friendship between the pair, and soon they are forced to face some harsh truths... that sometimes, love cannot conquer all...

I've only started reading historical fiction over the past few years, and there is something magical about reading a book and escaping to a time gone by, knowing that much of what you are reading about has actually happened, that people have really through these circumstances. In this book, we are in India in the 1930's, something I didn't know a lot about prior to reading this book. However, Jefferies has done so much research for this book, it's easy to picture the country, the people, the setting so easily, it really comes to life on the page, and is just an explosion of colour and imagery from the first few pages.

I liked the character of Eliza. She isn't exactly new to India, since she spent much of her childhood there with her parents, but this visit is the first time she has been back to the country alone as an adult. Eliza is very sympathetic to the Indian people, especially the poorer people, and is keen to help in whatever way she can. She seems to think the Indian customs and traditions are quite outdated, barbaric and not something she feels she wants to adhere to, but of course, she must, despite the fact they aren't her beliefs or traditions. I liked that she was a strong-minded female, determined not to kowtow to more powerful men around her, and I think is what attracted Jay to her in the first place.

The love story between these two was beautifully written, and is a slow burner. We sense right from their first meeting that there is a spark between the two of them, but both know that being together seems an impossibility, especially due to the fact Jay is a Royal, and must marry an Indian woman if he is to provide legitimate heirs for his family. Jay was different to his family, keen to help the poorest in his region thanks to his irrigation project idea, and seems keen to protect Eliza from some of the most questionable people around her, particularly his brother's aide, Chatur. I was hopeful that the pair would get their happy ending, but it seemed to unlikely, and I did feel sorry for Jay as he did seem torn between customs and traditions, and his heart.

The writing in this book is so evocative, it is crammed full of the colours, smells, sights and everything else perfectly Indian. The clothing, the flowers, the poverty-stricken villages, the castle, are all beautifully written by Jefferies, and the insights into the Indian customs are eye-opening. One in particular was horrific, a Sati, which is a widow-burning, since outliving your husband is thought to be a truly bad thing. This was barbaric, and I simply couldn't reason with it, it is unbelievable human beings can be treated in such a way. Overall, however, it was a glorious setting for a wonderful book, and definitely opened my eyes. The cast of characters was perfect, and I really did love Eliza and Jay, both together and as individuals. Jefferies' writing is perfect here, the words flow and set the scene with it, and I was completely transported away. A breathtaking read.

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