Here is an extraordinary little book that draws you to its warm-hearted characters and introduces you to a part of history that called for great changes, which were achieved through ‘small acts of amazing courage’. It is a delight and an eye-opener at the same time.
It settles you with a colonial family living in India in 1919, immediately after World War I, at the time when Ghandi was beginning his peaceful demonstrations to free Indians from British rule.
Rosalind is the fifteen year old daughter of a British Army General and his wife who have been stationed in India her whole life. Rosalind loves the people, the colour and the excitement of her adoptive country, and though her father would have her properly educated in British ways she can’t help but absorb India’s vibrancy.
The young Lieutenant Max Nelson was studying at Cambridge when he joined the war and served under Rosalind’s father. Max’s parents live in India: his father runs a jute plantation and his mother is described as ‘unconventional’ for running an orphanage for abandoned Indian children. Max and Rosalind meet one day at ‘The Club’, and he immediately draws Rosalind’s interest by talking to her about Ghandi and his dream of freeing India from England’s rule.
There is so much to praise in this book which is suited to mature readers 12 and up. From Rosalind’s courage to help those in need in spite of her family’s efforts to ‘protect’ her, to Ghandi’s assertion that non-violence is the weapon of the brave, to her aunt’s assurance that though we all die “what doesn’t die is the love we give to others”, to the early signs of a romance based on friendship and shared ideals, it offers readers a banquet of ideas to savour and explore.
It is a beautiful blend of a warm coming-of-age story of a young girl who learns to make her own ‘small acts of amazing courage’, as well as a personal insight into the India which inspired and finally saw to victory Ghandi’s great ideals. I’m so happy to have discovered it.
Clare Cannon is editor of www.GoodReadingGuide.com and is the manager of Portico Books in Sydney.