Not having read many fiction stories about India and having studied India at university I was keen to dive into this book. As with many books, the story is divided into two time periods and the book begins during 1947 and the lead up to Partition in India. Evie Mitchell has travelled to India with her young son Billy and historian husband Martin whose job it is to record the last days of British rule in India. Martin is a man much changed by his experiences in the Second World War and as a result their marriage is suffering and they are growing apart. Finding the disintegration of her marriage impossible to deal with, Evie throughs herself into endless bouts of cleaning and in doing so discovers a bundle of letters which have been hiding in the house since the nineteenth century, just shortly before the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
The letters were written by a young Victorian girl named Adela to her friend Felicity. the discovery of them plunges Evie into an obsessive search for the truth of the girls' story and what happened to them. Evie discovers little pieces of the story in various places – the local church, the local British club and hidden diaries of Adela's that she discovers. As she continues to search out the story of Felicity and Adela her own world continues to disintegrate as her husband becomes less able to cope with his war nightmares and reluctant to confide in her and as the days of British rule draw ever more swiftly to a close.
Elle Newmark describes the sights and sounds of India both in the nineteenth and twentieth century in a wonderfully rich fashion. This, in addition to the mystery of Adela's and Felicity's lives and the closed book of Marin's war experiences and its effect on his marriage make this a compelling story which will satisfy fans of historical fiction.
This book was provided by Transworld as part of their Book Club and is my 20th read for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.