Saturday, July 13, 2013

The ocean at the end of the lane

When the narrator attends a funeral near where he spent his childhood he decides to drive back to where the house in which he lived used to be and then continues driving to the end of the lane. Stopping near an old farmhouse memories from his childhood return and gradually he remembers episodes that may have occurred when he was a lonely boy of seven who escaped from problems by reading adventure stories. In Neil Gaiman's short novel the narrator, more than forty years later, tries to explain and rationalise the reality of a lonely childhood merging with a world of fantasy and danger.

It was after a lodger committed suicide in his parents' car at the end of the lane that the narrator meets Lettie, her mother and grandmother and the boundaries between his known world and a distant world, maybe going back to the beginning of time, begin to merge. On the second visit to the farm he and Lettie set off to confront an unknown being and from that time onwards the narrator realises that an evil presence has gained entry to his world and that his life is in danger. Confronting evil is only one part of the story. It also explores how external influences may threaten family relationships. The book is also about memory and questions what we actually remember and what we think we remember (or forget) from childhood and other times in our lives.

This, perhaps, is another book that is best read in one sitting allowing the reader to become totally immersed in the world of fantasy created in the novel.and its possible impact on daily life and the fears of a child.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Children of the Raj

Vyvyen Brendon's book, Children of the Raj, investigates the lives of children of British parents serving in the army or working for the East India Company as civil servants or merchants in India. Many children of British families were born in India and through examining primarily correspondence and diaries the author traces the lives of these young people. In many cases young children were sent home to England or Scotland to be looked after by family members and educated in the UK. The problems of separation, loneliness and growing up without immediate family is discussed. Other children remained with their parents and the life of these families is also described. Health concerns, climate, relationships with local people, summers at the hill stations in the highlands to escape the extreme heat are all described. The uprisings that occurred during 1850s provided additional concerns and dangers. In many cases the children of the British in India followed the footsteps of their parents and either stayed or returned to the Indian sub-continent. The book traces stories of these families up until the end of the Raj when India gained independence in 1947.

Having family in India in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries I found that this book provided interesting background information about how families connected with India lived during these years. Some of the families mentioned married members of my extended family which helped make the information even more relevant. There is a detailed notes section at the back of the book as well as bibliography and index. A useful book for those interested in life of the British in India prior to 1947.