M(ary) M(argaret) Kaye David Tilden - Essay

David Tilden

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Miss Kaye has lived in India much of her life and her forebears have distinguished themselves in service in that country for more than a century. [Shadow of the Moon], centered in the Indian Sepoy Mutiny, is dedicated to them.

The story beginning in a mid-Victorian setting in England that is hardly less strange by present-day standards than India itself, is the tale of a young girl, half British, half Spanish, who was born in India but reared chiefly in England after the death of her parents. Her mother, dying in India's heat, had asked to have the baby named Winter in longing for the coolness of her distant home.

The story is of Winter's journey and marriage, by circumstance ended in the carnage of the uprising, and the way out that the girl found through the reign of terror. Episodes in that story, patterned largely after the almost incredible actual events of 1857, are filled with excitement and suspense, but the story of India itself will have even greater fascination for many readers. Out of her own experience, including tales handed down in her family, Miss Kaye pictures its welter of races, religions, ideals and superstitions; its fragrances and stench, beauty and horror. Nor does she shrink from showing the shortcomings of all but a few of its British overlords.

Once one gets past a rather slow start …, this novel is a thriller the more thrilling because so much of it is or might have been true.

David Tilden, "An Indian Mutiny Thriller," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), September 1, 1957, p. 3.