The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott…a very long classic

The Jewel in the Crown is the first novel in a set of four books called the Raj Quartet written by Paul Scott. (Raj refers to the occupation of India by the British Crown from 1857 to 1947. Prior to that The British East India “ran” the country.
Book 1: The Jewel in the Crown (1966).
Book 2: The Day of the Scorpion (1968).
Book 3: The Towers of Silence (1971).
Book 4: A Division of the Spoils (1975).

A further book, with some of the same characters and settings was called Staying On, referring to the few British who decided to stay on after the independence of India from Britain in 1947. It won the Booker Prize for 1977.

Scott first went to India in the Armed Forces in 1943 during World War 2. He knew the soldiers life, both private and later commissioned, the social heirarchy amongst British and Indians, as well as the politics and cultural context. He returned to India several times after the war. There is an excellent Wikipedia entry about Scott. The author comments that his entries regarding Scott’s writing career were original research.

“Scott’s novels persistently draw on his experiences of India and service in the armed forces with strong subtexts of uneasy relationships between male friends or brothers; both the social privilege and the oppressive class and racial strata of the empire are represented, and novel by novel the canvas broadens.”

I first came to know this story as a British 1984 series of the same name, on the ABC TV. There were fourteen episodes, and I understand the story encompassed the four books of the Raj Quartet. I loved the series then, and have watched it several times. I chose to “read” this long book as an Audible book, starting early in the year, slowly plying though the 33 hours on morning walks.

Reading The Jewel in the Crown gave wonderful depth to the characters and a greater feel for the historical and social context of the book, over and above the television series.

Hari, an Indian young man, raised and educated in Britain was out of place in India. Daphne Manners was a young English woman, who felt at odds with the class system, and racism. The two were very drawn to each other. In the wake of their coming together, a tragedy unfolds, and we hear in depth about them and the many other players in the tragedy from many different speakers.

The book is beautifully constructed, giving us in depth understanding of all the characters and the political and class restraints on all. I am so pleased I have read this book. I also loved learning about Paul Scott’s life. I think he was an interesting man, but also flawed, giving his wife and daughters a hard time with his temper. I would like to read his biography by Hilary Spurling: Paul Scott, A Life of the Author of the Raj Quartet.
A rewarding read.

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Living in The Gap following growing up in Brisbane. Also lived in Nambour, Mt Isa, Cairns, Beaudesert, Ipswich, qualifying as a "Queenslanda". Retired and loving growing extended family, sub-tropical gardening, cooking, reading, politics, aquaerobics, family genealogy, sewing, knitting, film, IT, all things Mac, Pinterest, Goodreads, State of Origin.......

6 thoughts on “The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott…a very long classic”

  1. Hi Cath I am almost finished reading The Fishing Fleet – husband hinting in the raj – Anne de Courcy 2012 Weidenfeld & Nicholson. A fascinating insight into the manners fashion and domestic life of the workers in the raj. O my goodness what a lot to deal with – but at least not usually in snow cold or dreary weather.

    1. I see de Courcy wrote another book Husband Hunting: Social Climbing in London and New York…she seemed to liked this theme in general.

  2. Hi Cathy
    Have just finished reading a great biography on Lachlan Macquarie who spent a number of years in India in the 1780’s to 1790’s.
    I feel inspired to dip my toe into “Jewell”
    Thanks for the recommendation

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