Before The Rains – Dinah Jefferies

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1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. . .

*********

I’ve really enjoyed Dinah Jefferies’ previous novels.  Before The Rains is her fourth one and they just seem to get better and better.  I just like her style of writing.

I loved this story of Eliza, a young widow trying to make a name for herself as a photojournalist, in 1930s India, and who has just been given a commission to spend a year living in the palace of Prince Anish, photographing the royal family and life in the princely state of Juraipore for a new archive.

Not everyone in the castle welcomes her presence. She was sent there by the British government, and some think she may be spying for the British, but she does seem to get along with the younger son, Jayant.

Right from the start you get a real sense of the contrasts: the heat and dust and poverty Eliza sees surrounding the castle, and the scents, colour and opulence of the interior.  This is something I find the author does very well – her wonderful descriptions seem almost effortless but you get a great sense of time and place.  It’s easy to imagine you are there as the story unfolds although you couldn’t possibly have been there (in my case I’m too young – I wasn’t born until the 1950s!)  Dinah is an excellent storyteller.  I suppose you could say it is historical romantic fiction (historical in the sense of recent history) but it has depth.  It is a time of growing political unrest, the Indian population is governed by the British.  Eliza is an interesting character who doesn’t really fit the mould of a young English woman in India.    The plot moves at a good pace and the various threads of the story are woven expertly.

It’s a story of love, friendship, secrets, deceit, sacrifice, betrayal. There are a couple of twists although they weren’t entirely unexpected. Overall, a very satisfying read.

Author’s website:  here

Before The Rains was published by Penguin on 23 February 2017.

[My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for an ARC]

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