Staying On by Paul Scott

I went to a marvelous English Literature course run by Anne Scott, lecturer at Glasgow University, Scotland.  At the end, one of the other students, who was moving house, was giving away some of her books. Just what I needed – more books! I could not resist, and this was one of the books I chose. I had read The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott many years ago, so when I saw his book Staying On, I thought I would enjoy it. I was right.  paul scott

Paul Scott was born in London, England in 1920.  He died in 1978.  Scott served in the British Army during mainly in India and  Malaya during World War II from 1940 to 1946.  This book, Staying On, won the Booker Prize in 1977.  It is both hilarious and touching.  It deals with the end of an Empire and the end of a forty year love affair.  I really enjoyed this book.  I cannot imagine anybody not enjoying it: the novel is so beautifully written and the characters so beautifully drawn.

staying onThe novel tells the story of Tusker and Lucy Smalley who stayed on in India when most of the British left the country and returned to the UK.  Tusker had been a Colonel in the British Army but has now retired.  He was given an opportunity to return home to the UK, however, he and his wife chose to stay in India living in the small hill town of Pankot.  They are the only permanent British residents left in the village.  Their financial position allows them to live more comfortably in India than they would in the UK.

The book begins and ends with Tusker’s death.  During the story the reader watches his health deteriorate and comes to understand the life Tusker and Lucy value despite, or maybe because of the many eccentric inhabitants of the town.  Tusker’s health and the tyranny of their landlady, Mrs Bhoolabhoy, albeit as softened by her long suffering husband, are the only things that threatens to upset their quiet, predictable lives.  Lucy does consider what the future might hold for her in India if she were widowed.

The story is not always pleasant but the story moves from funny to upsetting.  I enjoyed the book very much and now plan to re-read The Raj Quartet.  I highly recommend Staying On.

Valerie Penny

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3 Comments

  1. raj hans gupta

    Staying On, indeed, is one of the best novels written about the Indian experience of the Britishers. A Passage to India is a more comprehensive picture which beautifully transcends its local, historical context.

    Like

  2. Valerie Penny

    Gosh, it is a very long time since I read A Passage to India! It was written by E.M.Forster, wasn’t it? I must put it on my list of books to re-read. What do you think of The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott?

    Like

  3. Anastasia

    I read A passage to India a long time ago too and I loved it!
    So I will definitely check out this book too!

    Like

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