Subject Guides » Books » Reading Lists » Colonial India

The British East India Company took control in 1757, and ruled until India gained its independence in 1947.

Compiled by Forbes Library Staff | Summaries from ContentCafe, NoveList, Wikipedia, Amazon.com | March 2011

  • Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn
    When Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane travel to India to investigate the death of Jane Cavendish's husband, they uncover secrets and scandals, illicit affairs, and twisted legacies.
  • A Black Englishman by Carolyn Slaughter
    In a novel of India set during the tumultuous decade following World War I, a young woman fleeing the ravages of the war enters into a passionate but dangerous relationship with an Indian doctor.
  • A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
    In a scathing indictment of British imperialism, Forster's once controversial novel portrays two Englishwomen who experience misunderstanding and cultural conflict after they travel to India.
  • The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru
    At the age of fifteen, Pran Nath Razdan is thrown out onto the streets when the truth of his parentage is revealed, forcing him to re-invent himself over and over to survive as he journeys from Victorian India to Edwardian London where he learns to master his chameleon-like ability to transform himself into whoever and whatever he needs to fulfill his utmost desires.
  • The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie
    A family saga reflecting the troubled state of India. The protagonists are four generations of the da Gama, who became wealthy in the spice trade before declining into gangsterism. Their tale is narrated by the family's last descendant and he attributes their fall to bickering, a reflection of Hindu-Moslem strife plaguing India today. Peopled with odd characters--the narrator is the product of a Jewish father and a Christian mother--the novel is a pessimistic counterpoint to the author's optimistic Midnight's Children, on India's struggle for independence.
  • One Last Look by Susanna Moore
    Based on the actual diaries of Emily Eden, a 19th-century Englishwoman, Moore's novel gives us a glimpse into the journal entries of Lady Eleanor. Arriving at the English settlement in Calcutta in 1836, Lady Eleanor, sister to the colony's Governor-general, and her sister, Harriet, anticipate an unpleasant experience but instead find the region an area of seductive and exotic culture.
  • The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan
    Brings to life a profoundly exotic yet utterly recognizable family in the midst of social upheaval in a story that spans the lifetime of one woman in a Brahmin household from 1896 through 1962, in a novel inspired by the author's grandmother's stories.
  • Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
    Preparing to fight China's nineteenth-century Opium Wars, a motley assortment of sailors and passengers establish family-like ties that eventually span continents, races, and generations, in this lengthy yet fast-flowing historical novel about England's ruthlessly run opium industry in occupied India.
  • The Tree Bride by Bharati Mukherjee
    Struggling to reconcile with her estranged husband, Tara Chatterjee relates the story of an East Bengali ancestor who married a tree at the age of five and who grew up to be a nationalist freedom fighter against the British Raj.
  • Sharpe's Trafalgar: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805 by Bernard Cornwell
    In 1805, British soldier Richard Sharpe is faced with a new enemy when the ship carrying him to England is attacked by a French warship and he discovers that the French vessel is carrying a treaty that ignites hostilities against the British in India.
  • The Game: a Mary Russell novel by Laurie R. King
    Traveling incognito, Mary Russell and her spouse, Sherlock Holmes, head for India to search for a missing spy, the famous orphan who inspired Rudyard Kipling's "Kim," and find themselves caught up in a dangerous intrigue.
  • Honorable Company: a novel of India before the raj by Allan Mallinson
    In the second of the Matthew Hervey novels, Captain Matthew Hervey, a representative of the East India Company, discovers peril and adventure during his mission to Chintalpore, an embattled Indian city.
  • The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott
    This novel, the first in the Raj quartet, takes place in 1942, in the final phase of British dominion. Gandhi has just been arrested but his nonviolent noncooperation has led to active unrest. As a direct result, an efficient, aging mission school superintendent is attacked; and a young girl, staying with the westernized Lady Chatterjee, is raped by a group of "hoodlums."
  • The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly
    In the first of the Detective Joe Sandilands mysteries, the year is 1922, and the end of British rule in India is approaching. After a half a decade in which the wife of an officer in the Bengal Grays has died violently each March, investigators find themselves probing the bizarre coincidences that link the deaths as they pursue a dangerous serial killer.
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling
    Rudyard Kipling was one of the most popular writers of his era, and his novel Kim, first published in 1901, has become one of his most well-known nonjuvenile works. Kim, an Irish orphan, journeys throughout India and accompanies a holy man on his quest for a mystic river.

Category: Reading Lists, Historical Fiction

 
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