1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself. But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts.
I have been a fan of Dinah Jefferies ever since I read ‘The Separation’ a couple of years ago, she has become an author I can rely on to completely transport me to another country, another time period and immerse me in a great story. ‘Before the Rains’ is no exception and my adventure this time took place in a sultry, colourful India of 1930.
The story follows Eliza Fraser, young widow and budding photographer. This is a lady way ahead of her time, she’s head strong, career driven and not afraid to stand up for herself amongst the Indian royalty she is sent to capture with her camera. I have to admire Eliza, she is totally out of her comfort zone in the royal palace and in India but she doesn’t let that stop her photographing what she wants and going to the places she wants. And of course there is the dashing Prince Jay and forbidden love soon rears its head.
There are two things I love about Dinah Jefferies’ books. The first is that I always learn something, her books always feature a fascinating event in history. For me in ‘Before the Rains’ this was the Indian culture of widow-burning or sati as it is known. This horrific, barbaric and frankly blood chilling tradition sees widows throwing themselves onto funeral pyres or in some cases being forced into the fires because it’s believed that widows are bad luck and they are a failure as a wife if their husband dies first. Cue some frantic Googling on my part! This is also very significant to Eliza’s story because she of course is a widow.
The second thing I love is the wonderfully descriptive writing. I was walking round the palace and feeling the searing heat of the Indian sun on my skin, whilst listening to the rain outside my living room. The sounds, scents and sights of India come alive in ‘Before The Rains’ whether it be the scent of jasmine in the air or the colourful powder throwing Holi celebrations, you experience it all.
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Before The Rains’ as I knew I would and I recommend Dinah Jefferies to anyone who wants great story telling and an escape from the trudge of daily life.
BOOKISH CORNER RATING – 5/5 STARS
Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. Her idyllic childhood held a special place in her imagination and when she began writing novels in her 60’s she was able to return there – first in her fiction and then on annual research trips for each new novel. Dinah Jefferies is the author of four novels – The Separation, The Tea Planter’s Wife, The Silk Merchant’s Daughter and Before the Rains. She lives in Gloucestershire.
If you like ‘Before The Rains’ the you should try:
‘Eden Gardens’ by Louise Brown
‘The Separation’ by Dinah Jefferies
‘Summertime’ by Vanessa LaFaye
‘The Kashmir Shawl’ by Rosie Thomas
Final cover art and book synopsis from waterstones.com