This begins as a wonderful account of growing up in India, narrated by Nargis, one of three children of an Indian army officer. From the start ‘Daddy’ dominates the book. Daddy’s superiority to everyone else, Daddy’s stories of the past, Daddy’s diktats. Everyone wants to please Daddy. He’s a frightful hypocrite, though, proclaiming that women are equal with men before calling his wife (a graduate) a ‘stupid woman’ and hitting her. No wonder Mummy never argues with Daddy! They live in army quarters, then in a Bombay bungalow with a view of the sea. Once a year they make the long journey to visit Daddy’s family in the village where everybody seems to be related to them. Well taught by Daddy, the children feel superior to their aunties and cousins, grubbing about in the fields, drying cow dung to feed the fires. Stone age! Flintstones! There’s no exciting plot here, just fascinating descriptions of daily life in India soon after independence. You keep wondering, though, when it will be revealed that Daddy has feet of clay.
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