Congratulations must go to the author on her first novel. It is a wonderful read. It tells the story of her family life set in the dramatic period (1958) in India after the withdrawal of the British. The descriptive writing is engrossing, while the humour and family antics make it enjoyable and hard to put down. Ms De Souza has been able to capture the characters in the novel in an intimate and careful way. You would be sure to know them if you met them in the street!
The De Souza family consists of Mum, Dad, Lorraine, Lilly and Lucy. The story is narrated by Lucy as she returns to her home in Kanpur as an adult. Their family were descended from the Portuguese who originally lived much further south in Goa. The extended family settled further north, in Kanpur, and followed the British traditions. Then the British left. The family had no one to socialise with as the locals despised them, so they were a close knit family. Father managed the mill, and would have nothing to do with corruption or black money. They were always prepared for trouble, always very careful to take many precautions, both around their home and when going out.
Due to these restrictions, the evenings were spent together, with much reading of stories, playing of games and the bickering that will always exist between three girls. Mother was a patient, resourceful woman, who worked incredibly hard to make life fun and rewarding for all. There were some hilarious moments when Lucy first arrived at the Catholic School. She couldn’t believe the Nuns wanted her to call them Sister. “But I have sisters”, she replied with shocked disbelief.
After having three children in quick succession, Mother decided to take a holiday. This was explained to the girls, but Lucy, at about five years of age, didn’t quite understand the implications. On the day after her mother left, she went to school and was overwhelmed by the enormity of her mother’s absence. She screamed! Long and loud and red in the face until her uncle came to pick her up from school; but not before all of the other children in her class were screaming as well.
Lucy was a very bright girl who caused her to question and speak up when she sensed injustice. She became aware of the fact that their extended family was surrounded by hostile people, and she was not accepted by the British either. As the girls grew, they realised that they would have to leave the home that they loved and the animals they had used as guards, Reg the dog, and the geese, and the turkeys. Older members of the family died, and the family safety became paramount.
Returning as an adult, Lucy realised “There is an inherent human need in each of us to know what went before us, and how we are related to it and therefore to each other. It is this knowledge that anchors us to our identity…” She stands before the Church where her family have been baptised for the last four hundred years, and looks around. The sense of belonging she has yearned for in England is here. Now she can explore it and move on.
|Author||Hebe de Souza|
|Distributor||Simon And Schuster Australia|