Shadow Of The Moon by M.M.Kaye. Whenever I feel out of sorts with the world at large, this is one of the books that I pick up to chase the blues away. There’s drama, romance, intrigue, fantastic characters and of course, India. My copy of the book is a second- hand one that I unearthed at a book sale and the yellowed pages just add to its allure.This is not a book which should be read in a hurry. You should take time to sink into it, savour the beautiful writing of M.M.Kaye and allow the story to work its magic on you.
Even though it all begins in England, the story unfolds predominantly in India. Winter de Ballesteros, daughter of an English mother and a Spanish father is born in India. Orphaned at the age of six, she is send to her great-grandfather Lord Ware in England. The child is torn from the warm environs of India and thrown into a completely different way of life in England. Lord Ware is the only person in the household who loves her. Aware of this fact and perturbed by his own advancing age, he betroths the eleven-year old Winter to thirty-six year old Conway, a distant relative of his posted in India. While Lord Ware was aiming to secure Winters future, Conway had his eye on the sizeable fortune left in Winter’s name by her Spanish father. Conway showers affection on Winter, and tells her grand and slightly exaggerated stories about India, the country she pines for. He leaves for India promising to come back for her when she has grown up. Handsome, blond Conway thus firmly ensconces himself in Winter’s heart. She’s able to bear the crushing loneliness of the following years only by hanging on to the hope that Conway will come and take her away to India. Meanwhile Conway was leading a dissipated life devoted to his two passions, drink and women, as a result of which his health and career goes on a downward spiral. The year Winter turnes seventeen, Conway is requested by the ailing Lord Ware to solemnise the marriage. Conway realises that he has let his body go to seed and that any sane person who sees his bloated and unkempt figure would refuse to wed him.
Enter our hero Captain Alex Randall, Conway’s deputy who’s everything that Conway is not. An excellent officer loved by his men, principled and courageous, very frank and handsome to boot. Alex is deputed by Conway to escort his bride from England. Alex is shocked that someone as innocent and beautiful as Winter is planning to marry Conway and so he tries to give her the true picture of her fiancee. Winter who has deified Conway in her mind to god-like proportions, refuses to believe Alex and she starts hating him for maligning her poor Conway. Thus starts the second half of Winter’s life. She journeys to India and on her wedding night she is shattered when she comes to know that Alex had all along been telling the truth.Winter sticks on with her boor of a husband since she has nowhere to go. The year is 1857 and the Indian sub continent is rife with rumours of a possible mutiny. Alex and Winter fall in love in the midst of all this turmoil. Both are highly principled, which does not allow them to acknowledge their deep love for each other. In fact the turbulence in their minds is reflected in the land around them.Their love story unfolds along with the Revolt of 1857, the tragedy which befell Indians and Britisher’s alike. A time of madness, when decades of pent up fury burst forth in a medley of bloodshed and violence. With the Revolt as a backdrop, Alex and Winter’s lives inexorably start moving towards each other.
Shadow of The Moon is Alex’s and Winter’s story. A story of their intense and initially unacknowledged love for each other. A love they hold back in order to fulfil the responsibilities they have undertaken, Winter to her marriage and Alex to his duty.M.M.Kaye writes so beautifully, and the burst of colour that is India is starkly contrasted with the cool, green environs of England. She writes from the heart and each character has been etched with a lot of care and attention to detail. It’s very obvious that the author loved this country with a passion.
This book is a wonderful read for those who love historicals and also for those who love a good love story. There’re no undying declarations of love or any such thing. Just two people and their incredible love for each other.
I wouldn’t recommend Shadow Of The Moon to those who are not into historicals or romance. There’s quite a lot of history which has seeped into the story and the book is definitely not for the faint hearted, it’s a whopping 700 odd pages.