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Joe McWilliams

The Jewel in the Crown/Indian Summers

The contrast between these two is interesting. Indian Summers is gorgeous to look at, quite well-acted and ultimately a bit too hard to believe, even if one doesn't mind Simla looking far too tropical (it was filmed in Penang, Malaysia).
Flash backwards 30 years for TJITC, which I had not seen and probably shouldn't be watching before I read the book. A jarring experience, sloppy directing, clumsy dialogue, delivered in too many cases in that stilted, stagy, old-fashioned way of British television, and far from the best of it. It was all I could do to keep watching.
However, having endured the first two hours, I think it might just grow into something worthwhile. Dusty and drab though it is, I think there might be a story worth enduring for. One can't really blame Susan Woolridge for not measuring up to the images of Jemima West and Amber Rose Revah lingering in the back of my mind from Indian Summers. She could take acting lessons from them, though. Or is it the director's fault? Did people really talk like that? God help us.

Tim Piggott-Smith is intolerable as the policeman, but then he is supposed to be. The most sympathetic and believable of the bunch is Art Malik as Kumar. He's actually in both productions!
Oh well, it might get better. Charles Dance, whom I admire, is due to appear at some point.

Indian Summers has some good stuff in it and some fine performances. Patrick Malahide, as the viceroy, for example, and Julie Walters, delightfully evil as the matron of the Royal Simla Club ('no dogs or Indians'). I understand it has been dropped for lousy ratings. Just as well; the spell was wearing off. I'll probably continue with TJITC, in spite of myself, and ruin the book.

Very Happy
chris-l

I haven't watched 'The Jewel in the Crown' since it was first shown, so your comments rather burst the bubble of  many happy memories. I certainly do not recall being aware of the weaknesses that you mention, but perhaps we were a less critical audience back then. Time, in this case seems not to have been kind. Some of the actors you mention came to my attention for the first time as a result of this series, and I looked out for their appearances ever after. Wasn't Geraldine James in it, too? I think there was a very touching performance by Dame Peggy Ashcroft.

'Indian Summers' passed me by, so I cannot comment on the comparative merits. I wonder how it will look 30 years from now?

I have had Paul Scott's 'Raj Quartet', upon which TJITC was based, on my bookshelf for decades, but have never got around to reading it, mostly, I think because the TV images were to clearly fixed in my brain for me to be able to fully absorb the written word. Perhaps I should make the effort to read it at long last.
Joe McWilliams

Sorry to burst your bubble, Chris. After two more episodes of 'The Jewel' last night, I am warming to it. Despite the crappy production values, I think it is going to end up being the better story.

The visual contrast could hardly be greater. Indian Summers is in super high-definition, which I am not used to at all. You find yourself contemplating the pores on a character's nose. It is rather distracting. The colours are dazzling, the pictures so sharp it is almost unbelievable. It takes some getting used to, but it is compelling.
In 'The Jewel,' the colours have that characteristic 'washed out' look that I associate with British TV. Another problem I had with it at first is a kind hastiness in some of the scenes, giving the impression the director was in a hurry to get on to something else.

Chris, I'm going to read The Raj Quartet regardless. Let's do it together and compare notes.
chris-l

You're on! Maybe as a quid pro quo, I will make an effort to watch 'Indian Summers'! It won't be a great sacrifice, really.
Joe McWilliams

Let's get 'er done, as they say out here in cowboy country. Give me about a week, though, Chris, as I have a library book I have to finish first.
chris-l

I have found my copy, which is a good start, but I probably won't begin reading for a few days. In any case, it consists of four full length novels, so I envisage spreading it out over a month or two. I am four weeks away from my holiday, so will probably take this along to read while I am away, when I want a break from the Kindle. I am notoriously bad at posting comments, so I am really going to have to get my act together on this one!
Sandraseahorse

I'm quite surprised by your views on "The Jewel In the Crown", Joe, as I enjoyed it when it was on originally and it received excellent reviews.  For ages afterwards it was cited as an example of television excellence.  

In contrast, "Indian Summers" (which I haven't seen), got mixed reviews and some critics saw it as a downmarket version of "The Jewel In the Crown."

I suppose styles in acting and directing change and what is regarded as cutting edge one decade looks hopelessly dated 2-3 decades later.
Joe McWilliams

It turns out I spoke too hastily about The Jewel in the Crown. Eight or 10 episodes in, I find myself altogether hooked, and have a hard time believing in my earlier reaction. There is a lot to like about this story, and I am looking forward to reading the books it is based on.
I still find some of the performances a bit hard to take, however. They come across as people reciting lines they've memorized, rather than seeming like real people in real conversations.
chris-l

I wonder if that acting style was not to a certain extent intentional, Joe? Certainly, in some cases, I think the characters were very much 'playing a part', trying to live up to what they thought was expected of them as representatives of the British Empire.  Following your own heart was not much approved of.

Of course, you are watching it now, and I have only a distant (but very fond!) memory to rely upon, so I might react differently today. As Sandra says, styles change, and what seems natural in one era, can come across as intensely mannered at a later period. One only has to think of some of the famous films of the 40s and 50s to be aware of that.

I think I shall be ready to begin reading 'The Raj Quartet' tomorrow. If anyone else is in a position to join in, that would be wonderful, but I do not anticipate finishing it for several months, so there is plenty of time for others to join in!
Joe McWilliams

Chris, I'd be ready too, if I hadn't been spending so much time watching a certain 1980s TV drama. It has slowed down my reading of Strangers on a Bridge, but I should be ready to start Mr. Scott's magnum opus in a couple of days. Rain is putting out the forest fires, so there's less to do outdoors as well. Rolling Eyes
Joe McWilliams

Speaking of Strangers on a Bridge, I'm reading it because its recent adaptation to film - Bridge of Spies - impressed me so much. Mark Rylance's understated brilliance as the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel was particularly impressive. Tom Hanks as his lawyer and eventual friend too.

The book drags a bit. Too much legal/courtroom stuff for my liking. The film cut out the boring parts, as films do, and added a few dramatic episodes that aren't in the book.
Castorboy

Same as chris, I found the TV images were too clearly imbedded in my brain, particularly the acting of Tim Piggott-Smith and Art Malik noticed by Joe, to read the novel. I have always looked forward to watching them in other roles. I feel I should read the novel after all these years so have requested TJITC from the library which I am hoping will arrive at the weekend.
Joe McWilliams

Further on this theme, I watched A Passage to India last night. The scenery was nice, but otherwise I found it annoying and unconvincing. Some of the characters were impossible to believe - mere caricature. And yet (I read) critics were falling all over themselves in praise of David Lean when it came out. I found it comical and stupid. It deals with the same themes as The Jewel in the Crown, but with an irritating ham-fistedness.
Had I watched it in 1984, I'm sure my reaction would have been quite different.
chris-l

Castorboy wrote:
Same as chris, I found the TV images were too clearly imbedded in my brain, particularly the acting of Tim Piggott-Smith and Art Malik noticed by Joe, to read the novel. I have always looked forward to watching them in other roles. I feel I should read the novel after all these years so have requested TJITC from the library which I am hoping will arrive at the weekend.


Good to know you will be joining us, Castorboy. I am making quite slow progress at the moment, as this week is half term holiday for our schools and I have been caring for the three middle grandchildren . I am finding that Paul Scott has a very clever way of building up the tension, so you know that the coming events are not going to be fun, but you are not quite sure how and when the inevitable violence will break out. Currently, I am into a long monologue from Lady Chattergee, who I remember as one of the more sympathetic characters from the TV series. Here, she seems more ambivalent, although I still identify quite strongly with her.

Only one week to go until I abandon TJITC for less weighty tomes when I go off on holiday, so I am sure that you will have overtaken me before I get back.
Castorboy

chris-l wrote:
I am making quite slow progress at the moment, as this week is half term holiday for our schools and I have been caring for the three middle grandchildren.

Make the most of it, chris. Three of our grandchildren are teenagers and have put away childish things – the smart phone rules. Oh, dear.

With TJITC the Miss Crane chapter gives the background with the prejudices of class and race, in both English and Indian cultures, along with historical facts to prepare for the rest of the novel (a process that brought home to me a few truths about life in NZ, something I wasn’t expecting when I began). Edwina thinks she can do good by educating deprived children but finishes up by realising her lack of knowledge about the Indian way of life is hampering her. I am just about to start on the second chapter.

Today we celebrate the Queen’s birthday and a Maori tribal leader has called for the North Island land wars of the 19th century to be commemorated. Fifty years ago that request would have been unheard of. Without going into more detail, it could be said that it has taken nearly 200 years for colonialism to be discussed in a reasonable manner instead of creating friction. If the English occupation of India lasted closer to 300 years, despite the bloodshed and disruption caused, was colonialism really the disaster it is fashionable to believe?
Political questions, I know – that’s how a novel can take you unawares.
Castorboy

Joe wrote on May 31st
Quote:
One reason it's challenging is the author's penchant for lengthy passages presented in the form of reports from a distance (in time, at least) from the events being described. I find I long for dialogue, but page after page none appears. It is certainly rich in atmosphere, but I feel disengaged - as if viewing the story from a distance, rather than being involved.

Joe, I found the third chapter easier to understand when I realised it was an account of Daphne’s experiences told from another point of view. Here there is a repetition of the facts fleshed out with more opinions from Sister Ludmila. They echo Lady Chatterjee’s account in a slightly disapproving way, and I wonder if this is due to their Western education. Both women have an idea that certain standards of behaviour are required from young women new to, in this case, India. This involves matters of etiquette, social politeness, making allowances for other people’s faults, and an awareness of local customs before becoming entangled with the Indians.
There is also repetition in the characters of Edwina and Daphne. Both have been left without their parents and other family members in their early twenties or late teens respectively, both have an English education, they are insure what to do in life, are emotionally immature, and have fixed ideas of the people they come in contact with. It is inevitable that both will end up in dangerous situations. So after reading the three chapters I want to hear what the Indian characters’ attitudes are to the westerners occupying their country. I’d like to hear from say Gulab Singh Sahib, the pharmacist, Mr de Souza of the Sanctuary, or sub-inspector Rajendra Singh, for example. It needs a different perspective to balance what has been shown earlier.  

I wasn’t sure who Lady Chatterjee was addressing in the Macgregor House chapter; I assumed it was the reader. Subsequently it turns out to be possibly a reporter, a relative, or an interested party who has returned to Mayapore after eighteen years to investigate what really happened at Bibighar Gardens. Hence her request that Daphne’s letters be returned to her after he’s finished with them. He may also be a friend of Sister Ludmila’s as she tells him that it was good of him to come again so soon. I had to read the beginning of An Evening at the Club for the penny to drop when Lady Chatterjee is admitted with her house-guest. Maybe his identity is being concealed for dramatic purposes.
Joe McWilliams

Hi Castor - yeah, I wasn't always even sure in that section who was doing the addressing, let along who was being addressed. Well into The Day of the Scorpion now, those early difficulties seem insignificant. The storytelling style has changed too - just as well as far as I'm concerned.
Merrick has just re-entered the story, accompanied by a faint whiff of sulphur.
Castorboy

Now that I am used to the long passages and minimum dialogue the novel has become addictive. There is so much to take in that I am spending thirty minutes over five pages. Scott may use 1000 words but the pictures he conjures up in my imagination are very pleasing.
Castorboy

The Jewel is a great read – I can’t really add anything new about a novel which has been praised in many reviews over the years. In popular terms it is a page turner, has well drawn characters, and a flowing narrative which left me looking forward to the next volume in the series. Scott knows his material comprehensively and can deal with complex incidents. I would like to start The Day of the Scorpion straight away but feel it would be fair to wait to hear the views of chris.
Joe McWilliams

Yes, when will Chris reappear? According to my calculations, she departed on holiday June 9. Didn't say where she was going. Surely not India? If so, all is forgiven : )

I'm afraid I can't wait for her. I'm just finished The Towers of Silence and will begin A Division of the Spoils this evening. The devil drives, as they say, and I must be on my way.
Castorboy

Greetings Joe, I am going to start The Day of the Scorpion at the weekend - I really want to meet up with Merrick again and hear his opinion of the Mayapore riots. Although Scott has to introduce many characters in this saga, I'm sure I will remember each one as they appear, or in this case, reappear in the story. I suppose it's because I am familiar with multi-volume novels.
Joe McWilliams

Good to have you back on the job, Castorboy. I have been steaming along and am now 200 pages into A Division of the Spoils. I look forward to reading your comments on The Day of the Scorpion. I'll keep mum for the time being. Don't want to ruin your fun.
chris-l

Joe McWilliams wrote:
Yes, when will Chris reappear? According to my calculations, she departed on holiday June 9. Didn't say where she was going. Surely not India? If so, all is forgiven : )

I'm afraid I can't wait for her. I'm just finished The Towers of Silence and will begin A Division of the Spoils this evening. The devil drives, as they say, and I must be on my way.


It has taken a long time! I abandoned the Raj Quartet for more portable works when I went off to France, and did not take it up again immediately on my return (I was quite frankly too depressed at post-Brexit 'Little England' to give serious attention to anything at all), but eventually, I immersed myself once again, and since have been totally involved in the world Paul Scott created. I have found it to be totally absorbing, and now that I am about halfway through The Division of the Spoils, I am beginning to rather dread arriving at the end! So much so, that I am beginning to think that I may want to move on to Staying On, which I believe involves Lucy and Tusker, two characters who have appeared in the quartet.

In many ways, I have enjoyed the experience of reading this series too much to feel capable of making an objective assessment of the books. Maybe a little space may be needed before I can begin to really collect my thoughts. The impression I have at this moment is of a wonderful collection of characters, some of them sympathetic, others far from likeable, but all set against a background of circumstances not of their making, which sometimes force them into actions or reactions which would not be their natural choice. In many ways, the characters seem more important than the momentous events which form the background to their personal drama, which would seem, superficially, to be the wrong balance, but, I cannot help but feel, is perhaps the best way to view life.

Well, I still have a little way to go before I reach the end of the series. I doubt if my thoughts will be much clearer then than now, but I am absolutely certain that the ideas and dilemmas raised in the novels will stay with me for a long time to come.
Joe McWilliams

So........Chris and Castorboy. Any final thoughts? Did you finish The Raj Quartet?
chris-l

Well, I can only speak for myself, but, yes, I finished The Raj Quartet. I found myself very caught up by the characters and the events, and was left feeling very empty once I reached the end. In many ways, it seemed to me that it said as much about British society in the 1930s and 1940s as it did about India at the same period. The prejudices and attitudes, the snobbishness and narrowness, all reflected that time in history.

I was very impressed by this series of novels. I had not previously given Paul Scott a great deal of thought, but he now strikes me as a significant writer. Sadly, I do not believe there are many other examples of his work, although I look forward to reading Staying On before too long.

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