I read this book many years ago on a recommendation from a friend. Before that I had not heard about the author or the book. When I saw the size of the book, I was not sure whether I will end up reading such a fat book. Before this book, I had kept “War and Peace” with me without reading for many years. But I will write about that experience some other time. “The far pavilions” is not a book that you want to put down once you start reading it. It was one of those books that really enhanced my interest in genre of “fictional history”.
The book is set in late nineteenth century in the period after 1857 war of Indian Independence and culminating in Second Anglo Afghan war by the end of century. I had not known much about that period of history and I got to know lot of things through this book. The character of Ashton is so well created that it feels very real, but that is one character which is completely fictional in the book. While reading the book, I could actually imagine each and every scene mentioned in my mind. The way small kingdoms worked, the way huge marriage processions went from one part of the country to another, war with Afghans, simple traits of house servants, the way Britishers interacted with Indians is so well described that at no point you feel that image is being exaggerated for the narrative.
Of course, another highlight of the movie is the love story that develops between Ashton and Anjuli and how they meet after a gap of so many years. How Anjuli really suffers at the hands of her sister and how Ashton finally rescues her. The scene of sati that is described in the book really scared me giving me goosebumps.
Sometime back I found the movie adaptation of this book. I think it would have been better to assume that movie never existed. Not only it is a very badly mad movie, it really spoils the narrative of the book.
Anybody wanting to get a feel of that time of Indian history or just looking for a wild romantic journey should definitely read this book.