Books: Eight-Anna Girl

Books: Eight-Anna Girl

Time Magazine

Bhowani Junction (394 pp.)—John Masters—Viking

In days gone by, when the sun never set on the British Empire, old India hands toted the white man’s burden, and Rudyard Kipling wrote about it in some 35 volumes of prose and poetry. Now that the burden has been lifted, many an old India hand has little to tote but a stiff upper lip. Not so John Masters, exbrigadier of the Indian army. Bounced out of India by Indian independence, he has bounced right back again, figuratively, at least, with a self-imposed burden of Kiplingesque dimensions. The burden: to write 35 novels about the land of purdah and pukka sahibs, covering the rise and fall of British imperial rule. Bhowani Junction is 39-year-old Author Masters’ fourth, and a Book-of-the-Month-Club choice for April. It covers part of the fall.

Three of Bhowani Junction’s, main characters take turns at telling the story, which hangs on the problems of a group Americans know little about. In India, there are many names for them—Anglo-Indians, Eurasians, half-castes, chee-chees, blacky-whites, eight-annas. Victoria Jones, an eight-anna girl, is “the color of dark ivory.” She is a lush beauty with come-hither eyes and a figure that would make an hourglass seem angular. But in 1946. with the British on their way out of India, Victoria’s problem is acute. (“We couldn’t become English, because we were half Indian. We couldn’t become Indian, because we were half English.”)

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