Book Review: A Passage To India

I’ve chosen a highly recommended novel, set in one of the countries Phileas Fogg visited, in Jules Verne’s Around The World In Eighty Days, to review.

The second stop on the journey is India, so I have chosen to read A Passage To India by E.M. Forster.

A Passage To India is a novel telling the tale of the British Empire and the Indian independence movement. Adela Quested, a British schoolmistress travels to India with some companions, to visit the fictional city of Chandrapore. Whilst exploring the country, Miss Quested makes a horrific accusation against an Indian doctor, Dr Aziz, and the rest of the book follows Dr Aziz’s trial and aftermath, highlighting the extreme racial tensions between the native Indians and the ruling British forces.

I really enjoyed this book, particularly because I learnt a great deal about the experience of colonial rule and social issues, such as racism and religious conflict between Christians, Muslims and Hindus. The depiction of Indian culture through the eyes of English citizens really reminded me of John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – a film I think is absolutely brilliant.

Also, the book copy I read was stunning; it was originally published in 1924 and looked like such a typical “old-fashioned book” I just had to buy it. Thankfully, it was only 75 pence from a charity shop!

The book is split into 3 parts: Mosque [1], Caves [2] and Temple [3]. I found Parts 2 and 3 the most interesting, probably because these were the sections of the novel which followed the accusation and case made against Dr Aziz by Adela Quested. Part 1 seems to set the scene more – some of the descriptions were really quite beautiful – but there was little action.

I thought A Passage To India really made me think about the prevailing issues of race and class divides, which are still as relevant today as they were in the 1920s. In Forster’s book, the rich only see the rich, British-ised parts of India, whilst the slums are kept tidily out of the picture. This is applicable to many countries today, not just India.

I’m glad I read this book, and I strongly recommend that you read it too.

– Judith

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