Review

East of the Sun

by Julia Gregson

EAST OF THE SUN is a historical novel set in the era of Gandhi,
during a time of growing civil unrest toward British imperialism in
India. Peaceful demonstration by Gandhi against the unjust
treatment of his people sparked a human rights movement and
resulted in a continuing British military presence there.

By 1928, when this story begins, Gandhi had already been
imprisoned once by the British government after Indians began
resorting to violence. The great cultural differences between the
cultivated British and impoverished Indians in addition to an
increasingly unstable political climate created a tenuous situation
for many of the British who lived there. Nevertheless, a dominant
British society persisted there until 1947, when India finally
gained independence. Marriages were forged and children born,
either to be shipped off to England away from their parents or
raised in a dangerous country with real potential for harm or death
by violence and disease. Such is the state of affairs for the story
told here. 

In the fall of 1928, the Kaisar-i-Hind sets sail to
India with its cultured British passengers. Rose Wetherby is a
19-year-old woman who is newly engaged to Jack Chandler, a British
cavalry officer stationed in India. Traveling with her is her best
friend and bridesmaid, Victoria Sowerby (Tory), who plans on an
extended stay in hopes of making a match for herself. Both young
women are prepared to settle in India permanently upon tying the
knot. Their guide is Viva Holloway, a novice writer who hopes for a
new start and to have the chance at reconciling a painful childhood
where she lost her entire family. Guy Glover, another of Viva's
charges for the trip, is a 16-year-old boy with significant
emotional problems who was shipped off by his parents as a form of
abandonment. 

EAST OF THE SUN tells the stories of each of these people as
they travel to India and make the choices that will determine the
course of their lives. All of them face difficult situations that
largely arise from their decision to settle there. And while each
character has great depth and interest, the most compelling is
Viva, the young writer. She is one of those rare, proud working
women who is far ahead of the times, determined to support herself
rather than abandon hope or submit to an unhappy relationship. When
Viva arrives in India almost financially destitute, her search for
employment drives her to take a job at an orphanage near the slums,
in a facility run by a few British women who live apart from their
own society. It's here that the most significant moments in the
book take place, with Viva and the children she cares for.

The humanity of these rejected children shines through all the
hardships and abuse they have endured. Paradoxically, it's in this
place that both the cultured British society and the caste system
of India break down to become completely insignificant. Here, it
doesn't really matter where the children are from or whether they
are Hindu or Muslim. It's ironic when one considers that this
simple brand of immaterialism was exactly the concept Gandhi had
been trying to teach both his own people and the British government
who kept them in servitude. 

Author Julia Gregson is an exceptionally gifted writer. She has
such a sensitive and truthful style that you will immediately be
drawn into this book. It gives the reader a real sense of what was
going on in India at the time and of the great injustice forced
upon its people. It's also a beautiful story about self-discovery,
friendship, and finding the things that really matter in life.

Reviewed by Melanie Smith (melanies@daywesthealthcare.com) on January 21, 2011

East of the Sun
by Julia Gregson

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • ISBN-10: 1439101124
  • ISBN-13: 9781439101124