Saturday, July 4, 2009

"East of the Sun"

Julia Gregson has worked in women's magazines in the UK, US and the Far East. She has had several serials and short stories published and read on the radio, and was a finalist for the 2005 Waverton Book Award for her first novel, The Water Horse.

Gregson applied the “Page 69 Test” to her latest novel, East of the Sun, and reported the following:
On page 69 of East of the Sun, we’re having a drink of crème de menthe in the cabin of Victoria Sowerby, ‘Tor to her friends.

‘Tor, aged 19, is on board the Kaisar-i-Hind en route to Bombay, and she is making a brave attempt to make a funny story out of another love affair (this time with a Cambridge homosexual) that went wrong.

The year is 1928, and ‘Tor is a member of The Fishing Fleet, the rather unkind name given to the many women who went out to India during the years of the British Raj, hoping to find husbands there. Statistically, their chances were good: British men outnumbered their women folk by three to one in India. For girls who hadn’t found a husband during the London season, the Indian social season represented a sort of last chance saloon. Those who failed to find their man during this hectic three months, of parties, polo matches and picnics were shipped home as ‘Returned Empties.’ Ouch.

The idea for this strand of my story came from my own mother in law who at the age of 18 went to Bombay as a member of The Fishing Fleet having been married off herself after a confusing marriage to an older homosexual. When that marriage was annulled, she was sent East. In many ways I felt that this random system of sending naïve girls across the world on their own, made the Indian system of arranged marriages, where at least prospective partners were known to parents, look surprisingly benign!
Read an excerpt from East of the Sun, and learn more about the book and author at Julia Gregson's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue