Olivia and Jai! This book is one of the reasons why I want to start blogging again! I had to pay tribute to a story that robbed me off my sleep since I would read it until 2 A.M. at times! What captivated me was the first dialogue between the two main characters, Olivia O’Rourke and Jai Raventhorne. Jai Raventhorne is an illegitimate half-English, half-Indian magnate misunderstood by the Whites but respected by Indians. Olivia is a young American woman living on the fringe of the British community of Calcutta. When she first meets Jai, Olivia wrongly assumes him to be British because of his perfect command of the English language and his white complexion.
Jai feels insulted, he feels that Olivia never suspected of his Indian background simply because for her he was too civilized for an indigenous. During this first conversation he scolds her for this misunderstading. How did she expect him to be like as an Indian? Servile, obsequious, bending on his knees at the sight of a White lady? Why would she expect all indigenous to be extremely dark-skinned? He then explained that his bright complexion had nothing to do with his British side because indigenous people come in all colors of the spectrum; they could be lily-white or as black as the ace of spade.
His vehement reaction can be shared by people of all origins; an Arab exasperated because some people think he’s too fluent in French for an Oriental or an African who is tired to explain why his skin is a little bit lighter than what most would expect. People can be so steeped in prejudice!
From the first pages, I was very judgemental towards Olivia because I bear the same name and I intended her to honor it! (It’s completely ridiculous but I could’t help it). In the end, I didn’t approve of all her choices (I wanted to spank her after reading some scenes) but I shared her fascination for the many contradictions personified by Jai Raventhorne.
How ironic! Olivia bears my name but Jai is the one I identifed with. I recognized myself in his refusal to define and justifiy himself and even in his status of bastard! Him, twice bastard – by social and cultural standards – and me, bastard « thanks » to cultural standards only.
Going back to the book, it refers many times to Shiva, a Hindu god that counts destruction as one of his principal attributes. This analogy serves to define the heartless personality of Jai Raventhorne; he hates British people and he wants to destroy the happiness of Olivia’s British relatives. But why is Jai so hateful and frustrated? Will Olivia resist this inevitable destruction? This book will definitely give you « des rêves d’orient et des insomnies d’Occident » (oriental dreams and western nightmares) as said in a song of French singer Obispo. To be read!