Two women, two generations apart. In The War Child, Renita D‘Silva explores the connections between a mother and child, through danger and separation, self-sacrifice, unstoppable events and the pressures of modern life. D’Silva tells the dual timeline stories of Clara and Indira over many decades, setting the strength and promise of women across four decades against the twentieth century prejudices of chauvinism and racism. In London, 1940, teenager Clara is woken by her mother as their home is bombed. Her mother presses into Clara’s hand a necklace, a St Christopher’s medal, with the promise that it will always protect her. Orphaned, Clara is taken in by her aunt and begins helping at a local hospital treating injured soldiers. When nurses and doctors ignore a wounded Indian soldier because of the colour of his skin, Clara nurses him to health. When the war ends, she decides to fulfil a long-held promise to herself. Inspired by sitting on her father’s knee and listening to his stories of India, Clara takes a job as nurse companion to a delicate boy whose parents are re-locating to India. And there, she falls in love.
In India, 1995, 33-year old Indira is chairing a board meeting when she gets a message to ‘go to the hospital’. Fearing her young son is dying – he is in hospital for a minor surgical procedure – she finds her husband and son both well. The message refers to Indira’s father who has had a heart attack. Indira returns home to her parents, somewhere she hasn’t been much of late as she seeks to avoid their simplistic boring life, resenting their dissatisfaction with her life choices.
Sometimes raw and painful, always emotionally complex with surprising twists that make you gasp, The War Child is another brilliant book by my first-choice author for Indian historical romance. D’Silva is such a visual writer that India is a real place on the page, the colours and scents are both beautiful and challenging, her descriptions as full of contrasts as fresh guava sprinkled with chilli powder.
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I’ve loved every one of Renita D’Silva’s books I’ve read to date, so far my favourite is The Orphan’s Gift. Click on the title to read my reviews of A Mother’s Secret, Beneath an Indian Sky, The Girl in the Painting and The Orphan’s Gift.
If you like this, try:-
‘The Tea Planter’s Wife’ by Dinah Jefferies
‘Heat and Dust’ by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
‘The Sapphire Widow’ by Dinah Jefferies
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE WAR CHILD by @RenitaDSilva #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5mW via @SandraDanby