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.