24/01/2002

Parson Harding's Daughter (by Joanna Trollope)

I've enjoyed most of Joanna Trollope's modern novels, so thought I might try one of her historical ones, which were originally written under the pseudonym of Caroline Harvey. They're mostly out of print now, but can often be found second-hand or in charity shops.

'Parson Harding's Daughter' is about a young woman called Caroline, the rather unconventional daughter of the local parson. She has a brief love affair that comes to nothing when her beloved sails to India.

Some years later, Caroline's father's sponsor wants her nephew (who just happens to be Caroline's previous admirer) to settle down in India, believing him to be rather wild and associating with people she doesn't approve of. So she arranges for Caroline, who is still unmarried, to join him.

Caroline is quite eager to go, but quickly discovers just how far he has fallen into a low form of life, particularly gambling and heavy drinking. Nevertheless, she does what she can to look after him, having no other prospects. She befriends the servants and slowly gets to know the local folk.

I suppose it's a realistic portrayal of life in colonial India, with a courageous girl making the most of appalling circumstances. I found the book a bit disturbing in places, although the ending is encouraging. I doubt if I'll read it again.

No comments: