I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2016. The challenge is to read books that you already own.
The Venus of Kompara – John Masters
Set in 1890 during the period of British rule of India, this adventure novel from 1961 blends archaeology, PG-rated eroticism, strained marital relations, superstition, and mysticism.
The British resident Kendrick sublimates his impotence with his wife Barbara into ruling his small district. His ambition is thwarted by his own misogyny and his uncertainty about the future ruler, Mohan, who has been educated in the UK but feels adrift back in his native culture. The archeologist and mystic Smith joins forces with the contractor Smith who uncovers curious artifacts while digging a dam. A mysterious dancer, Rukmini, attracts the attention of Mohan, but her agenda is also filled with righting ancient wrongs done to her Dravidian people by Mohan’s Aryan ancestors. Mohan loves her but because of caste rules sees no path for her to become his queen. The locals have secrets to protect and go to great lengths to guard them.
There’s a lot of action in this novel. Masters is also good with the theme, the clash of civilizations in ancient times and our own. Of course, the sensibilities induce cringes in our enlightened age.
The defeated masses were small and squat, their faces somewhat exaggeratedly simian, sometimes beautiful, but always different, with their broad cheekbones and square shapes, from the tall, straight-nosed, lank-haired heroes who destroyed them and their works.
I can’t recommend it as highly as his brilliant novel of an Indian regiment fighting in the trenches of WWI, The Ravi Lancers, but it’s interesting and readable.