Before the Rains is set in India, 1930. It follows Eliza Fraser as she is sent to the palace in Rajputana to photograph and document the lives of the royal family. While there, she meets Jay, the charming, handsome brother of the Maharajah. They awaken one another to the inequalities and injustices of both the British rule and the citizens of Rajputana. As they grow closer, it is made clearer that they will need to decide between doing what their hearts tell them, or doing what is expected of them.
Before the Rains was the first novel that I have read from Dinah Jefferies and it is already clear to me that she has a gift for storytelling. Her settings were extraordinary and very easy to visualise, her way of writing kept the reader captivated and enthralled, and it was clear that a lot of research went into the culture and history within the book. While the narrative was slow at times, there was still enough to always keep me interested in the story. I especially loved the ideas surrounding fate, destiny, and karma, with many of the characters’ stories interconnecting and colliding. Despite there being a heavy focus on the relationship between Eliza and Jay, this novel is far more than a love story. The story focuses on the socio-historical issues surrounding India in the early 20th Century under British rule, as the British attempted to belittle the rulers of India in order to gain full control.
Despite there being a heavy focus on the relationship between Eliza and Jay which may put some readers off, this novel is far more than a love story. The story focuses on the socio-historical issues surrounding India in the early 20th Century under British rule, as the British attempted to belittle the rulers of India in order to gain full control. After reading a few love stories recently, I found the historical drama of the novel refreshing and interesting.
The characters were well-written and intricate, with some easy to like such as Eliza’s faithful friend Dottie, and some easy to hate, like Chatur, the rude, manipulative advisor to the Maharajah. Eliza was a likeable character and very easy to go on this journey with. I was attracted to her ambition and courage, in a country where her widow status was likely to cause her many problems, some being truly dangerous (suttees, also known as widow burnings still occurring in India today).
Before the Rains was a wonderful book to read, one that was easily able to transport me to another place. It has also inspired me to begin more research on the culture outlined in this book, with Jefferies noting some useful sources at the end of the book. I can’t wait to read more of Dinah Jefferies’ novels and see where she takes me next.