Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Before The Rains by Dinah Jefferies
Release Date: 18th May 2017
Publisher: Penguin
Genres:  Historical Fiction / Romance

A romantic, heart-wrenching tale of love against the odds from the Number One Sunday Times bestselling author

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. . .

When the publisher sent me a copy of this book to review I was immediately drawn to the absolutely beautiful front cover. It immediately gives the reader a bit of a clue as to how wonderfully full of life and colour the actual story is going to be. 

The book opens with a young Eliza watching the Viceroy's procession take place in Delhi. Her father who is accompanying the Viceroy in the procession has promised Eliza that he will stop his elephant and wave at her. However, Eliza's world is turned upside down by a terrorist attack.

Fast forward 18 years later and Eliza is back in India, this time as a young widowed photojournalist who has been assigned, by the British government to record what life is like in India. She's to spend a year at a palace photographing every day life both inside and outside the palace at Rajputana. There she meets the royalty who reside there and becomes firm friends with Prince Jayant who is so different to his brother Anish. Jay, like Eliza is horrified by the terrible poverty of some of India's people contrasted with the lifestyles of the very rich. He is forward thinking and wants some of the old traditions stopped. Traditions such as widow burning. He also wants to help his people out of poverty but feels helpless to do so. The friendship between Eliza and Jay gradually grows but given their very different backgrounds, can it ever come to anything? Meanwhile, while living among its people, Eliza soon realises that the India she thought she knew and loved is being stripped apart bit by bit by British rule and the terrible treatment and suffering of the Indian people by the British government shocks her. She feels a desperate need to do something and she and Jay are united in their desire to help make the lives of the poor so much better.

This book simply took my breath away with its beautiful writing. The descriptions of India simply swept me into a world of strange sights, smells and traditions of a people who are fiercely proud and passionate. I love that despite the era, Eliza is a woman who refuses to be confined by what is expected of her simply because she is a woman. Two cultures, each with its own traditions and rules clash but are more alike that anyone even realises. One's place in society dictating life choices and behaviour. Duty is everything and love, passion and ambition must always take a back seat. And, like every good book it has a wide range of characters for the reader to both love and hate and remind our central characters of what is expected of them. There is always someone lurking in the shadowy hallways and passages of the castle.

Dinah Jefferies has written a wonderful historical novel and she has quite clearly done her homework around this period of British rule in India. Like Eliza, I felt myself get lost in the culture and the beauty of India and equally become horrified by the poverty and superstition that accompanied some of the old traditions. Before The Rains is an breath-taking novel that I would highly recommend. A fantastic story line that had me hooked. Historical fiction is a genre that I am still getting to grips with and I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to read this book as it has simply made me want to read more of this genre.


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