Saturday 18 February 2017

Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies

Published by Viking on February 23, 2017

Before the Rains is not only an intricate and beguiling tale of forbidden love but also an emotionally layered depiction of the contrast between the rich and poverty stricken in India and another mesmerising tale by a strong voice in historical fiction. I always look forward to a new Dinah Jefferies book and none of them ever disappoint. This one drew me in straight away and I have to say it resulted in the quickest time I’ve ever finished one of Dinah’s books. Normally with historical fiction I like to read slowly and savour every word, but I was so absorbed in this book I just couldn’t bring myself to put it down.

Before the Rains is rich in detail and description and I absolutely loved how Dinah could bring every scene to life with the vivid way she built up India, the appearance, the sense of time and place, the traditions and the characters within. There is nothing better than when an author transports you into the midst of their novel where every sight and smell, every twist and turn in the tale is real because you are there with the characters, seeing everything unfold right in front of you. The storytelling in this book is beautifully atmospheric and full of colour. I was completely enthralled by the India inside Before the Rains.

The novel tells us the story of Eliza. We meet her in India where she witnesses the tragic death of her father, who falls victim to a bombing. Eliza then returns to England. Years later, as a keen photographer and now a widow herself after the death of her husband, Eliza is offered the prestigious opportunity to return to India and photograph the royal family. I enjoyed seeing Eliza return to India especially after the sadness she had endured when she left. It was fascinating to see how she would take to life in India again. Swiftly upon her return she meets Jay, the Prince’s brother. Though things don’t run smoothly for them straight away, there is a connection there, which leads to the book’s engaging and heartstrings-tugging forbidden love story.

I love an against-the-odds romance tale. But an against-the-odds romance written by Dinah Jefferies? So much better.

I could do nothing but root for Eliza and Jay. I truly loved them both. They were both incredibly interesting characters. The characterisation throughout, but for me especially with Eliza and Jay, was stunning and really helped me connect with the story. The disapproval that society, and the people closest to them, showed towards their growing feelings for each other only made me root for them more. Eliza was such a strong character though, so she could definitely stand up for herself. I liked how determined she was and how much she cared – she was very upset at the suffering other people had to endure – and I felt sadness along with Eliza at some of the tragedies she encounters.

I too was sad to come to the end of Before the Rains. Dinah Jefferies delivered a wonderful, spellbinding escape for me as the reader, whilst also leaving me with a story that will be difficult, if not impossible, to forget.

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