Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rosie Thomas Takes Readers to Kashmir in Her Latest Wonderful Novel!

The Kashmir Shawl
By Rosie Thomas

I've just had a wonderful literary trip through Wales, Kashmir and many other small villages in India--one of the places I have always wanted to visit... And Rosie Thomas provided many engaging companions with which to make those travels! This was my first reading for Thomas and I'm so happy to have the opportunity to travel  with her. Yes, we were traveling together just because her descriptions were so beautifully presented. She took time to describe the land in which she had her characters fall in love with and sometimes, readers will just feel like you are there too...

"Ness," or Nerys Watkins captured most of my attention as she traveled next to her missionary husband in response to his call to serve in India. She is really the focal point of everything happening, but sees herself only as an "adjunct" to the missionary. But watch how she gathers the village children, beginning a small school as well as caring for so many there... Later, she becomes even more the one "creating" the story!

The story begins and ends with Mair, the granddaughter, who upon the death of her last parent, finds the Kashmir Shawl. She is the youngest of three children, single, and has no real commitments in life, so she takes the opportunity to "track" where the Shawl came from, and the story behind it. While Mair is greatly affected by her travels, it is secondary to the main story, so I won't say too much about it, except that I loved how Mair "closed out" everything just like her grandmother would have wanted. A truly remarkable story of family and agape love...

One thing that was interesting to me was that the Shawl that was made was so uniquely created that Mair had a hard time even finding individuals who knew how it was done. It is Mair, however, through her search, that we learn even more about making the shawls... From those who kept the animals on to those who spun and then made them. The best shawls would take up to a year to make! No wonder it had been declared as a dowry, don't you think?

It really is a small world, isn't it? Nerys and her husband traveled from Wales with Nerys knowing little of the language, yet she started to sing and play with the children, and by taking the children in, feeding them, she began the real community that developed. Not trying to discount the work of her husband, but there were two major religions in the region, so converts to Christianity--Evan was a Presbyterian minister--was slow and most of the work was in helping the community with food and medical assistance. Soon, though, the minister decided to travel to smaller communities and, because of the weather, decisions were made that affected Nerys' entire life...
The houseboats at that time were much older and in poor condition
but Nerys thought it was wonderful!

"For Nerys, Srinagar had a wintry loveliness that the society
migrants of the summer season could hardly have imagined.
"Smoke from countless wood and charcoal fires curled into the
white skies; bare trees were policed by brooding birds; the clopping
of tonga horses' hoofs was amplified by the frozen silence. When
she work up one morning the lake water was filmy, as if covered
by a layer of oil. The next day it had developed a skin on thin,
glittering plates, like the markings of some huge reptile, and the
one after that it was frozen solid. Moorhens and wagtails left
necklaces of spiky prints in the powdery rime, and garlands of
icicles festooned the houseboats' carved eaves.
"In delight at the beauty of it, she asked Myrtle, "Does this
happen every year?
..."She sighed for bygone days of glamour. 'There won't be
anything of the kind this time. There isn't a soul here and
every damned thing is scarce or rationed or unobtainable.
"I'm here, and Caroline. We'll just have to devise an ice
celebration of our own. Rainer will help..."

There were few English speaking individuals where the mission was located, so any type of social event, included Evan and Nerys because of his position in the community. It was during such an event that Nerys and Myrtle became close friends, even though they were from different social circles. Myrtle's husband was a British Officer and she was left alone often so that the women became closer...Then as Evan began traveling during the winters which were so severe, he suggested that Nerys accompany Myrtle and her husband to visit their home until he was able to come.

But Myrtle's husband soon went back to war. And Caroline and Rainer came into their lives through one of the last social events.

Caroline was a young wife of another soldier. She was so sad and in need of help that both Myrtle and Nerys became close and took her under their wings...

Especially when she had come to them about a pregnancy--that was not caused by her husband. Nearly everybody had known that she and the Prince had been involved. But nobody had known that she had been a virgin
until they had been intimate. But, of course, the Prince and his family would never consider her as a potential wife...

So the three women devised a plan...

"As ever, it was cold in the raftered room overlooking
the Jhelum river.
"Take this off," he ordered her. She unbuttoned the
Chinese robe and let it drop at her feet. Rainer kissed
her naked shoulder before wrapping her up in a
pashmina shawl. Then he lifted her chin and killed
her mouth, holding her against him as if she weighed
"You are magical," he murmured, after a long time.
With difficulty he stepped back...
"Rainer clinked his glass against hers. She could see
the weather-beaten furrows of his lion's face. 'We make
a good team,' he said. His praise was precious to her."
In the meantime, Nerys had gained her own admirer. While Evan had briefly engaged in sexual relations for his relief, it had left Nerys perhaps more vulnerable than she would have been. Rainer was a magician and much more, that is kept secret...

And so those four friends bonded together to help Caroline through her pregnancy. There was danger because the Prince had warned that there could be no shame brought upon his family. So they hid the child in various places until the day that Rainer planned an escape, which appeared to lead to an accidental death of those involved...

There is so much to discover in this 460+ page epic novel! The missionary life, the village life for those involved in the making of beautiful shawls, the lives of military wives, left alone by their soldier husbands, their fear and loneliness...and their subsequent deep friendships with other women. Truly a memorable story of the love and friendship gained in living together in times of turmoil and war...

Highly recommended as an historical novel as well as a magnificent drama of life in a beautiful part of India...


Rosie Thomas is the author of numerous critically acclaimed, bestselling novels. She has won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award twice, for her novels Iris and Ruby and Sunrise. Born in a small village in northern Wales, Thomas discovered a love of traveling and mountaineering when her children were grown. In the years since, she has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas, competed in the Peking to Paris car rally, trekked in the footsteps of Shackleton on South Georgia Island, and spent time on a tiny Bulgarian research station in Antarctica. To research The Kashmir Shawl, Rosie Thomas traveled to Ladakh and Kashmir.
Learn more about Rosie at See more pictures on The Kashmir Shawl on the author's Facebook page too!

Added for Those Who Wish to See More About Shawls Being Made...Fascinating!

No comments:

Post a Comment