The Towers of Silence
This is the fourth and shortest of the four main volumes of the Raj Quartet. I plan on reading and reviewing the final work, which is a connected, but not direct volume, which is also short.
This novels spends the bulk of its time focusing on the Laytons and their various connections. The Laytons are a blend of educators and military officials and the plot of the novel centers around the love affair of Teddy Bingham ( a military officer) and Susan Layton, one of the daughters.
The novel opens up a lot of questions related to the idea of one’s purpose and place in a colonial space as the situation is quickly changing. It is clear to many of the people involved that the British India is limited in years. And so the question is quickly becoming what will happen to those there once the stakes are finally pulled up. This is idea is especially explored with the death of military figures and the question of their widows and family. The Layton mother has lost two husbands to fighting and disease respectively and she still finds a place in the world of the Raj, but it’s clear that her daughters are in a caught-between place and their place in the world is less secure.
The novel, like the others, spiral around a variety of topics and small stories and still focuses centrally on the rape and eventual death of Daphne Manners in the opening of the first novel. But the narrative has moved beyond a little. This is the first of them feels like a bridge between narratives, but it’s still very good.
A Division of the Spoils
This is the final volume of the four part series. It’s also by far the longest of the four clocking in at about 600 pages compared to The Towers of Silence at 400, and the other two at about 475 each. It’s hard to say if it earned its 600 pages or if instead Paul Scott was unable to so to speak give up the ghost on the series. The focus of this volume moves away from some of the other specific topics (though it never leaves behind any for long) and focus on the military, governmental, and intelligence loose ends of the handing over of the colony to the newly formed Indian government. It doesn’t deal very much with the question in broad terms but focuses instead on the localized effects.
It’s important to remember that India is gigantic in terms of land mass (especially before partitioning), cultural diversity, and population, so to try to tell this story in any meaningful way is necessarily a foolish task.
Anyway, this novel introduces an intelligence officer into the mix who is tasked with helping to figure out next steps. And his role in the novel is to weigh in on the family matters of the Laytons especially but also learn more and more about the fate of Hari Kumar and Ronald Merrrick, who when last we checked in was wounded in battle and becoming, in theory a sympathetic figure.
But this novel is clever, and never allows any British person, outside of women and the average soldier to be morally sound given their complicity in imperial oppression. Although I found myself also fighting to get through it, this is some of the most impressive novel writing I’ve ever been witness to