Review 1660: Breakfast with the Nikolides

Because of the war, Louise and her children are forced to return to her husband Charles in India for the first time in many years. There, they take up what is apparently a toxic relationship.

Louise is a fearful, sometimes hysterical woman who seems to dislike Emily, her 12-year-old daughter. Louise considers her sly and deceptive when in actuality Emily is very truthful but seems unable to behave naturally with Louise. Emily loves India, but Louise only sees its dirty and ugly sides, not its charm.

The situation between husband and wife and between mother and child comes to a head over Emily’s dog, Don. In a crucial moment, Louise chooses to lie to Emily rather than tell her the truth as Charles advises.

In general, I liked this colorful novel, which, as always with Godden’s India novels, is luminous in its descriptions and sympathetic to its characters. However, for modern audiences there is a recounting of a rape scene that is handled in a very problematic way. For me, it detracted a good deal from my enjoyment of the novel.

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6 thoughts on “Review 1660: Breakfast with the Nikolides

  1. Jane May 12, 2021 / 10:45 am

    I recently read a BLCC that glossed over a sexual assault with ‘humour’ and that distracted me from what should have been a lighthearted read. It’s interesting here that it’s a women writing, I’ve come to expect it from men at the time.

    • whatmeread May 12, 2021 / 11:22 am

      Well, it’s a rape of a man against his wife. I wouldn’t say it was glossed over, but it wasn’t handled in a way that we would consider appropriate now.

  2. whatmeread May 12, 2021 / 11:23 am

    I mean a man raped his wife, of course, not that the man got raped.

  3. Jane May 13, 2021 / 11:56 am

    I understand. I wonder if that was considered rape at the time or if husbands were just allowed to? How sickening.

    • whatmeread May 13, 2021 / 12:15 pm

      I believe it was legal then, but it was definitely depicted as a rape.

    • whatmeread May 13, 2021 / 12:16 pm

      Or I should say, it wasn’t illegal.

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