Heat and DustBy Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Set in the 1920s amid the suffocating heat and exotic landscapes of India, this penetrating novel juxtaposes one womans search for passion and independence against the social constraints of proper British behavior. A profound and powerful novel, winner of the Booker Prize.. Set in colonial India during the 1920s, Heat and Dust tells the story of Olivia, a beautiful woman suffocated by the propriety and social constraints of her position as the wife of an important English civil servant. Longing for passion and independence, Olivia is drawn into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in gang raids and criminal plots. She is intrigued by Nawabs charm and aggressive courtship, and soon begins to spend most of her days in his company. But then she becomes pregnant, and unsure of the childs paternity, she is faced with a wrenching dilemma. Her reaction to the crisis humiliates her husband and outrages the British community, breeding a scandal that lives in collective memory long after her death. Olivias story is told by her step-granddaughter, who travels to India fifty years later. The narrator becomes absorbed in Olivias story through the dead womans letters and through conversations with villagers who remember the scandal. Gradually absorbed by Olivias state of mind, she embarks on a parallel journey of sensuality and spiritual challenge, amid the heat and exotic landscapes of this eternally fascinating country.