How many episodes jewel in the crown
The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, #1) by Paul ScottYoull only find 4 and 5 star reviews for The Jewel in the Crown on this site. And it is, indeed, a towering achievement. Towering! Magnificent! So ... er... what went wrong for me?
Do you remember James Joyce said that if Dublin burned down he wanted them to be able to rebuild it by reading Ulysses, meaning that every brick and stone, every chemists shop and stretch of beach, every busker and cabmans shelter was to be found in Ulysses in its exact location and condition in the book, not one atom changed around, so that in many ways Ulysses is not to be described as a work of fiction at all. (Joyce also took on the task of writing a book where if the whole English language was eaten by Godzilla theyd be able to reconstruct it again from Ulysses. But I digress.)
Paul Scott decided to do the same thing for the last days of the British in India. Brick by brick, house by house, room by room. Historians of interior decor 1945-65 can look no further. You have just won the lottery.
The bathroom is airless. There is no fan and only one window high up above the lavatory pedestal. At the opposite end of the bathroom - fifteen paces on bare feet across lukewarm mosaic that is slightly uneven and impresses the soles with the not unpleasant sensation of walking over the atrophied honeycomb of some long forgotten species of giant bee - there is an old-fashioned marble-topped washstand with an ormolu mirror on the wall above, plain white china soap-dishes and a white jug on the slab; beneath the stand a slop-bowl with a lid and a wicker-bound handle. Here too is the towel-rack, a miniature gymnastic contraption of parallel mahogany bars and upright poles, hung with immense fluffy towels and huckabacks in a diminishing range of sizes, each embroidered in blue with the initials LC.
Half way through that not untypical paragraph I was medically dead for about a whole minute.
So that was the first thing. The next thing I didnt like was the plot. Even before I started I didnt like it - the blurb announces that this is the story of a brutal rape perpetrated in somewhat mysterious circumstances upon an English woman in India. Yes, thats right, the self-same central plot of E M Forsters A Passage to India (which I thought was pretty good). How strange - it was obviously deliberate on the part of the author to lift this rape plot from Forster and re-do it, rock bands and film directors do this all the time, so why not authors? But this particular plot is kind of a drag, really. Weve been down this symbolic road already - naive imperialists defiled by intimacy with the conquered peoples - its all too crude for me. You could argue that Forster lifted the plot from Daisy Miller by Henry James and replanted it in India, and I daresay it isnt original to HJ either. Now it is true that the plot is hardly the main point of this novel because as Dr J said about Pamela, if you read this book for the story you would hang yourself. Meaning that moss, stalactites and your fingernails all grow faster than the plot in this book. So if your plot is just the hook youre hanging other things on, then get a more interesting one.
The next thing I would like to complain about is the length of many of the sentences. Paul Scott was evidently a major fan of the late Henry James and he likes to run amok with those clauses - theres a kind of effete machismo about the long sentence. It can be fun but it can so very easily be too much of a good thing. Dig the following (he is talking, as he always is in this book, about race relations) [note, the maidan is a public space in the town] :
Or is this a sense conveyed only to an Englishman, as a result of his residual awareness of a racial privilege now officially extinct, so that, borne clubwards at the invitation of a Brahmin lawyer, on a Saturday evening, driven by a Muslim chauffeur in the company of a Rajput lady, through the quickly fading light that holds lovely old Mayapore suspended between the day and the dark, bereft of responsibility and therefore of any sense of dignity other than that which he may be able to muster in himself, as himself, he may feel himself similarly suspended, caught up by his own peoples history and the thrust of a current that simply would not wait for them wholly to comprehend its force, and he may then sentimentally recall, in passing, that the maidan was once sacrosanct to the Civil and Military, and respond, fleetingly, to the tug of a vague, generalised regret that the maidan no longer looks as it did once, when at this time of day it was empty of all but a few late riders cantering homewards.
Ooof... I need a lie down after a sentence like that. Was Mr Scott working with a typewriter on which the full stop key was about to break so he was trying to conserve its use? The full stop is such a pleasant thing. It is the readers friend. It gives the brain a little pause, a little twiglet for our bird-thoughts to alight on for a second before the next sentence carries us aloft again. I like full stops.
The last thing I would like to complain about is that the characters who are given all the long monologues or who write the long letters are all tedious windbags. They dont know when to stop. I wanted to wring their scrawny necks. In my last example this guy is talking about the swanky country club in Mayapore :
The compulsory subscription was waived in the case of all but regular officers and two new types of membership were introduced. Officers with temporary or emergency commissions could enjoy either what was called Special membership, which involved paying the subscription and was meant of course to attract well-brought-up officers who could be assumed to know how to behave, or Privileged Temporary Membership which entitled the privileged temporary member to use the clubs facilities on certain specific days of the week but which could be withdrawn without notice.
Oh my God.
Finally, though, I just couldnt stand the company of the British colonial class in India, they were a hideous gaggle of superannuated racists so I abandoned this very remarkable and undoubtedly brilliant novel with relief.
note - I would like someone who five-starred this book to tell me if they actually liked the quotes above! Although if they do Ill probably back away slowly with wide scared eyes.
Granada Television produced the series for the ITV network. The serial opens at the end of World War II in the fictional Indian city of Mayapore, against the backdrop of the last years of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement. Hari Kumar is a young Indian man who was educated at Chillingborough, a British public school the British term for an elite private school ; he identifies as English rather than Indian. The bankruptcy of his father, a formerly successful businessman, forces him to return to India to live with his aunt. Working as a journalist, Kumar now occupies a lower social status in India, and lives between two worlds, British and Indian. Many British colonists discriminate against him, and he is held in some suspicion by Indian independence activists.
It is the story of the men and women of both ruling and ruled classes trying, amidst the turmoil, to come to terms with the drastic changes taking place around them. Their lives will never be the same again. Episode 1: Crossing the River The story begins in The Japanese are threatening to invade, and Gandhi is calling on the British to quit India. This turns to hatred when Hari begins a relationship with Daphne Manners, the object of Merrick's affections.