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Nine Lives by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala [Book Review]

September 6, 2010

Jhabvala wrote a series of stories in the sepia tone. They all have the flavor found in the clip below – Merchant Ivory.

Most of the stories found in Nine Lives are under-developed with very often awkward introductions to characters. Unlike Heat and Dust, her Anglo-Indian stories felt forced and incomplete. They feel like second drafts to Heat and Dust. All the narrators have the same voice as the narrator in Heat And Dust. Except where she was intriguing, the various white women in Nine Lives are disturbing for their unexplained door-mat behavior. They all eventually fall in love with devastatingly handsome Indian men who are cruel and dismissive and usually have a grand role in history. At the end of their lives, these men all become morbidly fat.

I did really like Menage though. A story set far away from India, in England involving two sisters who fall in love with a brilliant Russian pianist.

Jhabvala does understand something about love that is all-consuming and makes you do crazy things. Which is lovely, actually. Except when it is repeated nine times over.

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