I picked up The Far Pavilions by M.M.Kaye from a charity book shop circa 2003. I had never heard of it previously so I had no idea what to expect. I was in my first year of medical school and the workload had started to attempt a takeover of my reading time and dedicated reading effort. I picked it up because it was a hefty tome and I was looking for a story to properly lose myself in at that point. This book did not disappoint. At about 995 pages long it is the very definition of a sweeping saga.
It is a romantic adventure about love: between a man and a woman; between friends and for whatever place you call home. There are divided loyalties, betrayals, war, scheming and passion. Set in India in the 19th century, it centres around the life of Ashton Pelham Martin (a fabulous name by the way) from his birth, his early years and into his adulthood. Raised in a culture totally different from that of his parents, he grows to love a country that he is not meant to belong to so he spends his life trying to balance the tug in his heart for India, with his duty to the British Raj.
Another reason this book is such an amazing find, is that it tells a very beautiful love story. But rather than that being the focus of the book, it weaves it's way all through the book always hovering at the back of the reader's mind and you get the feeling it's at the back of the minds of both the central characters and M.M.Kaye herself. However, when it does come to the fore, as it does at several points during the story, it always potent enough to catch the reader at a vulnerable point and tugs quite strongly at the heartstrings.
I call this a sweeping saga because it carries the reader and Ashton (Ash) across India, to England and back again,before continuing on to Afghanistan. At a point during the book, you find yourself weaving through the Indian jungle on elephants and you feel yourself right there amongst the Royal entourage on its way to what promises to be a magnificent wedding indeed.
This is a book that delivered on so many levels that I just had to share it with as many people as possible. The prose flows in such away that sees your turning the pages over and over again even when it's way past your bedtime. Although it seems quite a daunting task when you open that first page, I envy you that you still have all the brilliance that is this story still ahead of you. If you haven't read it yet, please do! You will not regret it.