Title: Under the Jewelled Sky
Author: Alison McQueen
Publication date: 25 April 2013
Format: Trade paperback
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Amazon US | The Book Depository
A love story for India, for a lost world and a boy from a forbidden world.
London 1957. In a bid to erase her past, Sophie Schofield accepts a wedding proposal from ambitious British diplomat, Lucien Grainger. When he is posted to New Delhi, into the glittering circle of ex-pat society, old wounds begin to break open as Sophie is confronted with the memory of her first, forbidden love and its devastating consequences. This is not the India she fell in love with ten years before in a maharaja’s palace, the India that ripped out her heart as Partition tore the country in two.
And so begins the unravelling of an ill-fated marriage, setting in motion a devastating chain of events that will bring her face to face with a past she tried so desperately to forget, and a future she must fight for. This is a tender story of love, loss of innocence, and the aftermath of a terrible decision no one knew how to avoid.
Regular readers of the blog might know that it’s quite rare when I read and review historical fiction or books with a similar subject matter. I’ve never really been interested in this genre and on the rare occasion when I did pick up a historical novel, I never seemed to enjoy it as much as I should have. However, there was something about Under the Jewelled Sky (possibly the idea of love and loss and a past better forgotten) which really piqued my curiosity and I decided to read it. Never in a million years did I imagine falling in love with McQueen’s story as much and as quickly as I did.
Starting her story with a hint of a family drama and a dark past, the author introduces us to Sophie – a British girl who spent part of her childhood in India – and her mother who is visibly not too keen on seeing her daughter after so many years. We learn that it’s been quite a long time since the two of them saw each other and they clearly haven’t been in touch ever since. It takes a great deal of courage on Sophie’s part to make this visit, yet her mother couldn’t behave in a more rude and nasty way. When Sophie announces that she only came to tell her something, she refuses to listen. And Sophie leaves. Needless to say, it was only the first chapter but I was hooked already. What might have happened to cause such tension between the two women? What was Sophie about to say to her mother? I knew it would be related to some buried family secrets but the complexity of Sophie’s past and what they’ve all been through back in India not only took me completely by surprise but made me read the last 200 pages in literally one sitting.