Elevate Difference

East of the Sun

East of the Sun follows the journey of three young women and their quest for love, life, and self-discovery in the autumn of 1928. The story begins in London with Viva Holloway, an orphan and aspiring writer who takes on the responsibility of chaperoning three young adults—Rose, Tor and Guy—in traveling to India. Upon receiving word of a trunk belonging to her late parents resting with a family friend in Simla, Viva embarks on this journey to fill the missing blanks of her childhood in India, and ultimately gain control of her life.

Rose is a naive, beautiful, young girl who is soon to be married to Jack Chandler, a cavalry officer in India. As we follow her voyage, we discover many facets of her personality, which unfold one by one as she discovers her life and its many shades of grey. As she boards Kaiser-i-Hind, the ship that takes her to India, Rose feels a mix of anxiousness in marrying a man she barely knows, and sadness as she leaves behind her beloved parents. Will Rose discover love or heartbreak? We follow her as she grows into a woman and endures life’s not-so-happy surprises.

Victoria “Tor” Sowerby, Rose’s best friend and bridesmaid, is the complete opposite of Rose. Despite her persistence to settle down with an eligible suitor, she lacks self-esteem, which is complemented by her mother’s constant criticism of her body image. For Tor, the journey to India is an escape from her overpowering mother and a quest to find the love of her life. Tor’s emotions are more public than any of the other characters depicted in the story and that is what makes her the most interesting character to observe. Will she find love that lasts or will she have to return back home alone?

Gregson carves a beautiful journey of the lives of three passionate women, each wanting their own share of fairy tale happiness in life. As the characters develop the story gains complexity yet it retains the innocence with which each of the women began their journey. Throughout the book we witness each characters’ evolution into an individual, and how their friendships never lose ties.

The story combines suspense and thrill to evolve into a drama, which keeps the audience turning pages, while Tor adds the comedic touch to the plot with her flamboyant personality. As the characters cross paths several times in India, we witness violence and hope amidst the end of the British Raj and colonialism, and the start of independence within both the country and the characters.

East of the Sun is an historical fiction novel with a backdrop of Indian culture. As Viva, Rose, and Tor battle the violence within their lives and in a nation wrestling for freedom, every character heals herself, and eventually emerges fresh. The peaceful teachings of Gandhi that are faintly touched on in the story are in line with the book’s ultimate message of love, hope, and resolution.

Cross-posted with Gender Across Borders

Written by: Maria Khan, September 4th 2009