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A Black Englishman

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | A Black Englishman.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Carolyn Slaughter(Author)

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A Black Englishman is an epic and intimate novel about love and loyalty, revenge and faith, race and identity, and what it takes to be human.

India, 1920: exotic, glamorous and wrenching away from Britain's colonial grip, only to be thrown into religious violence and terrorism. Isabel, a young woman in search of herself and in flight from the ravages of the Great War, has married a career soldier whose brutality and cruelty sicken her. Upon arrival in India she is thrust headlong into a passionate and dangerous liaison with Sam, an Indian doctor who insists, against all the odds, on the right to be both black and British.

'This is a fine novel in which character and situation are perfectly balanced against a dramatic and perennially fascinating historical watershed.' Elizabeth Buchan, Daily Mail

"'Richly detailed and moving' Sunday Times" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

4.4 (4220)
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Book details

  • PDF | 335 pages
  • Carolyn Slaughter(Author)
  • Farrar Straus Giroux; 1st edition (24 Nov. 2004)
  • English
  • 5
  • Fiction

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Review Text

  • By Anakina on 11 July 2014

    This book is described in a somewhat misleading way and it was only after reading other reviews that I decided to read it. It is not at all the usual romance novel, and it is not characterised by a eroticism in its strict sense (in the scenes shown the main characters do almost nothing but talk!), but it is a story of the encounter between two very different cultures set more than ninety years ago, with all the difficulties that this entails.Isabel is a rich Englishwoman, married to a soldier serving in India, who begins a relationship with an Indian doctor, educated in England and with strong ties to that country. The main problem against which their relationship hits is the one related to their different race, not so much for them but for the world around them. The events take place during the final stages of British domination in India and offer a poetic and at the same time ruthless insight of this country and the historical period.The love story itself is very nice, even if it is hard to believe that in reality a devotion of this kind, so unwavering and without hesitation, could be possible, given the impossible challenges it has to deal with, but it is perhaps the only certain thing in a story full of uncertain factors, sometimes very violent ones. The style of the author is so addictive to give a full idea of the drama of certain moments together with the adventurous aspects. A sense of anxiety pervades the reader as the story moves toward its final part, requiring them to keep reading. You get to hate some characters, the terrible stories that are reported, not just those of the protagonists, and even India and England.A bit unusual choice is to embed all the dialogues inside the rest of the text. This creates confusion at times, but it is a valid device that allows the protagonist, from whose point of view the whole story is told, to bring the facts to which she hasn't assisted through the words of other characters and do it in a very effective way. It almost creates shifts in the point of view, without notice, that allow for a broader view of the story.Remarkable is also the evocative power of the scenes, rich in powerful metaphors, capable of generating vivid images in the reader's mind. You almost have the impression to perceive the smells, even unpleasant ones, the sounds, the colours of India itself, as you receive all the feelings, both positive and above all negative ones, related to abuse, torture, killings.I do not like stories with a sad ending, in fact I hate them. The fact that it was listed as a romance novel made me hope, but I admit I feared the worst with the pressure of events. Luckily I was denied, but this has left in me the remembrance of a strong emotion that only good books can give: that one of having experienced first hand the story.I want to make a small mention to one of the best characters of this novel: Joseph, the servant of Isabel. Although this is not one of the protagonists, his role is crucial and his evolution, the way in which he reveals to the reader, make him one of the most beautiful characters in which I have ever come across in a book.Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, author of Red Desert - Point of No Return

  • By Jana L.Perskie on 13 February 2006

    Mourning the death of her fiance, exhausted by all the suffering caused by World War I, young Isabel Herbert marries in haste and leaves her beloved Wales for India with her new husband, career military man Sergeant Neville Webb. It is 1920. The Raj is on the wane.When Isabel boards the ship that will take her to another continent, her mother tells her, "You've made your bed now, you'll have to lie on it." A moneyed thoroughbred from a society family in Italy, Isabel's mother married somewhat beneath her, but not by much. Her daughter, on the other hand, looking to escape the terrible sadness of the war's aftermath, hooked-up with a man of pedestrian origins. Neville is "common" in many ways, she will soon learn, unfortunately. Selfish, coarse, a philanderer, he had his own reasons for wanting to get married quickly while on furlough. And Isabel longs to leave the UK and all memories associated with it. She is fleeing from herself and from her lack of wherewithal to begin a life alone.She could just "howl for the freedom of our youth, our happiness, then, before the war came down on us, so that before you knew it, all that you'd ever known and loved was gone." And, "It (the war) left us broken, unable to go back to where we were, or who we were before, because with all our young men lost and gone, the young girls vanished too."WWI certainly makes its presence felt here, because if it had not been for that devastating conflict, this extremely bright, independent, university educated young woman of the upper classes would never have married a man like Neville Webb, giving him all power over herself and her future. Fortunately, Isabel's mother thought to set up a private bank account for her daughter in India.Even before the couple arrives in Ferozepore, Punjab, one of the fourteen provinces of the Raj and their destination, Neville arrogantly attempts to smother all his wife's enthusiasm for the new country, its cultures and languages. “The English people certainly do love India. It’s the Indians they can't stand.” He is perfectly clear about her adhering strictly to protocol, minding her "p's and q's," no gadding about and no exploring on her own. He also explains he will be gone, with his regiment, the Fifth Royal Gurka Rifles, for almost ten months of the year. There is always trouble on the border with Afghanistan.Upon the couple's arrival at the cantonment, there is an "unfortunate incident." A British soldier shot and killed his wife and then committed suicide. The woman was having an affair with a native Indian and no one on post appeared surprised at the consequences. Isabel, of course, is shocked, horrified, but the event does not register, apparently. Neville takes off for the border after a few days and his new wife is left to her own devices.Samresh Singh, an Indian physician educated at the best British schools and graduated, with honors, from Oxford, attends Isabel when she comes down with malaria. Sam, as he is called, is a man of two worlds, and of none. His Hindu lineage is impeccable. He speaks and acts like an English gentleman of the upper classes. Yet he is not Anglo English. He has always been looked down upon by the Brits, patronized by his former schoolmates and by the expatriate community in India. Nor is he an Indian - not after years spent in the UK. And the Indian nationalists look at Sam with disdain. They see him as a traitor to the cause of Independence. Singh is a "Black Englishman."Isabel and Sam fall deeply in love and share an intellectual, physical and emotional intimacy neither has known before. However, Isabel greatly underestimates her husband's wrath and the extent of his revenge, just as she overestimates her illusory independence as she seeks an identity of her own.Carolyn Slaughter paints, with beautiful prose, a vivid portrait of India during the last years of the Raj. Along with an accurate depiction of the political unrest of the period, the class system, and the hardships faced by women, both native and European, she gives the reader a wonderful peek at the Indian landscape, especially Northern India, as well as the flavor and color of the local cultures. She seamlessly interweaves the couple's story with historic events. Her characters, especially Isabel, Sam, and an Indian servant, Joseph, are three dimensional, complex and extremely likable.This is Ms. Slaughter's ninth novel and is based loosely on events in the life of her grandmother, Anne Webb.Although not in the same league with my favorite Raj fiction, "A Passage To India," The Raj Quartet," and "The Siege of Krishnapur," "A Black Englishman" is still an excellent novel. I enjoyed it immensely. Highly recommended!JANA


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