1928. In British-ruled India, headstrong Sita longs to choose her own path, but her only destiny is a good marriage. After a chance meeting with a Crown Prince leads to a match, her family’s status seems secured and she moves into the palace, where peacocks fill the gardens and tapestries adorn the walls. But royal life is far from simple, and her failure to provide an heir makes her position fragile. Soon Sita is on the brink of losing everything, and the only way to save herself could mean betraying her oldest friend…
2000. When Priya’s marriage ends in heartbreak, she flees home to India and the palace where her grandmother, Sita, once reigned as Queen. But as grandmother and granddaughter grow closer, Priya has questions. Why is Sita so reluctant to accept that her royal status ended with Independence? And who is the mysterious woman who waits patiently at the palace gates day after day? Soon Priya uncovers a secret Sita has kept for years – and which will change the shape of her life forever…
A breathtaking journey through India from British rule to Independence and beyond; a world of green hills, cardamom-scented air, and gold thread glinting in the sun, brought to life by Renita D’Silva’s exquisite writing. If you love Kathryn Hughes, Dinah Jefferies or Kristin Hannah, this is the novel for you.
I've read most of the books written by the brilliant Renita D'Silva, and absolutely loved each and every one of them. Through her beautiful, colourful prose, she always makes me dream, taking me back in time, away from real life chaos, on enchanting journeys to and from magnificent India.
The story in 'Beneath an Indian Sky' is a poignant, character-driven tale of hope, love, guilt and betrayal revolving around three women: Sita, Mary and Priya. Sita's and Mary's stories start in the 1930s when India was under British rule. Priya's story takes place in the year 2000.
"I will run away and create my own destiny."
Sita is a rebellious, feisty young girl, outraged at the unfairness of life. Why isn't she allowed to do the things boys do? Why can't she read, study, play in the mud like her brother? Her parents can't wait to get her married, but she doesn't want to end up serving a man for the rest of her life. She doesn't want to learn how to sew, dance, sing and keep house like other girls do. Why do men have such power? Why do they get to decide what women must do? I loved Sita and her strongheaded, rebellious nature and jealous character. These will help her thrive and achieve what she's craved all her life, but at what cost!?
Mary is a lovely English girl who lives in India with her parents. She becomes best friends with Sita. Sita loves her company as it enables her to escape from her claustrophobic home where her mother rules supreme, and Mary has all that Sita misses and craves: books, freedom. Life is so unfair! Mary is not bound by any rules and regulations and is given free rein by her parents.
When tragedy strikes, the two girls' lives are changed forever. They are separated and lose all contact. Half a world away from each other, both girls embark on very different, but equally convoluted life journeys, until years later, their paths cross again. And OMG what happens then!! The story takes on an unexpected, shocking twist at this point.
Priya's marriage ends suddenly when the love of her life leaves her for a much younger girl. Her father urges her to go with him to India to take her mind off things and visit her ailing grandmother. At that point there was no way Priya could have foreseen how her life would change once she lands on Indian soil.
Okay, I honestly think this is the author's best book ever!! It's just amazing, a rollercoaster of emotions, a kaleidoscope of colours, an outburst of sights, smells and sounds. This heart-rending story made me feel all sorts of emotions: joy, hope, anger, sadness. I actually ended up with tears running down my cheeks by the end, something that has never happened to me while reading, but I couldn't help it. My emotions were all over the place and there was so much heartache and turmoil going on that it felt like opening a valve, releasing all the pent-up pressure that has been building up since the beginning of the book. That ending (WOW!) will remain imprinted on my mind for many years.
All characters, settings and details in this novel, both in the past and the present, are brought to life in vivid colour and splendour. And colour is a tool this author knows how to wield very effectively and make full use of in her spectacular descriptions of characters and locations. For example this is how she describes a typical Indian marketplace:
"...piles of rotting vegetables, mounds of potent-smelling spices in all colours of the rainbow spilling from cane baskets, lurid yellow dough confections sizzling and sputtering in huge vats of oil, cows and dogs weaving between people dressed in kaleidoscopic garb, a cacophony of noises and scents..."
So full of life and realistic, don't you think? You can visualise this scene perfectly.
An element which I liked in this book is the contrast between rich and poor. On one side, we have the tiny mud huts by the river that use a piece of cloth for door. On the other, we have the vast opulent palace of the king, with its countless enormous rooms, jaw-dropping luxuries and furnishings, beautiful gardens and courtyards. It's all portrayed so vividly that I felt as if I were there exploring and admiring all this. Another aspect I really enjoyed in this book is the inclusion of many exotic animals and birds like elephants, deer, monkeys, cheetahs, a mongoose, parrots and mynah birds.
By now you might have suspected that I really enjoyed this book, haha! I could go on and on, there's so much to say about this beautiful epic tale, its characters, the well thought out plot, the exquisite prose and all its wonderful aspects. But I'll just add one more thing - Fantastic, Ms D'Silva, simply fantastic!! Well done!!
With thanks to Bookouture for approving my request to read and review this book through Netgalley. Highly recommended!!
Renita D'Silva loves stories, both reading and creating them. Her short stories have been published in 'The View from Here', 'Bartleby Snopes', 'this zine', 'Platinum Page', 'Paragraph Planet' among others and have been nominated for the 'Pushcart' prize and the 'Best of the Net' anthology. She is the author of 'Monsoon Memories','The Forgotten Daughter', 'The Stolen Girl', 'A Sister's Promise', 'A Mother's Secret', 'A Daughter's Courage', 'Beneath An Indian Sky'.