REVIEW: The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye

A brilliant, historical epic – CUB recommended and this month’s must read.


Set in the time of Britain’s imperialist rule over India, The Far Pavilions follows the life of Ashton Pelham-Martyn, an Englishman raised as a Hindu.  From an early age, Ashton is in danger, and he is soon forced to flee for his life after foiling the Hindu Queen’s attempts to murder the young heir to the throne of Gulkote.  But the threat of peril is never absent for long, as Ashton falls passionately but dangerously in love with Juli, an Indian princess.  With the clash between East and West bringing a possibility of war, can Ashton ever find a way to be both happy and safe?


This book had been on my reading list for a while and although it is long, it is well worth a read.  M. M. Kaye’s writing is one of the most vivid that I have read.  Having never been to India, I could really visualise the country.  Ranging from its scorching hot plains and snow-capped mountains to its cramped, disordered bazaars and luxurious palaces, I was experiencing the real India from all aspects of society.  As I was reading, I did not regard India as a chaotic and unattractive place, but rather a peaceful and truly beautiful location.  When mentally travelling through deserts and sand dunes in the burning midday-sun, I could feel the intense, dry and uncomfortable heat hitting my skin, comparable to the characters’ experiences.


The attachment and dislike I felt towards certain characters was raw and honest.  This is a novel that really tugs at your heartstrings because of the various situations the characters were in.  I admire Ashton because of his constant wish to eradicate injustice, despite the impossibility or others’ opinions.  He is a character that never ceases to develop.  Whilst I had empathy for him in his unfortunate beginning, it was Anjuli that I felt the most the most sympathy for as she had no say in her arranged marriage. Nonetheless, her undying love and loyalty to her half-sister was admirable, regardless of whether or not this was reciprocated.  Contrastingly, I hated Biju Ram for his sadistic treatment of others, including Ashton.  Shushila was another character who I despised; her selfish actions and misery she inflicted upon others around her majorly tainted her character.


The era in which Kaye’s novel is set is refreshing for me since I have never read anything set in the days of the British Raj.  However, I began to detest the British generals for their attitude towards Indians; Kaye’s writing allowed me to see things from Indians’ perspectives and their way of life under the rule of another nation against their will.  Furthermore, Indian words are employed throughout and, with the help of a Kaye’s glossary, I learnt about Indian customs and traditions which are so different from our own.

M. M. Kaye’s novel is the epitome of the power of literature; it can transport you to anywhere in time and space and generate emotions within you that you never thought a book could do. You are taken on a journey, both physically and emotionally and the ending is one of the most wonderful that I have read for one simple reason: the reader decides how the book concludes.

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