Staying On

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All their compatriots left after India became independent in , but these two who had small roles in the Raj quartet, where they were described as "slight bores, but very useful people" chose to remain. Scott traces the days leading up to Tusker's death, showing the Smalleys leading lives of quiet desperation in their confined world, cut off from the English — who had treated them with snobbish contempt — and bullied by the Indian capitalists who have replaced them.

Their lonely, precarious existence "hanging on rather than staying on" as Tusker puts it is wonderfully described, and Scott builds up such a strong sense of doom that Tusker's coronary starts to seem like the easy option. When Lucy asks Tusker, "What is to happen to me if you die first? Contradictory as it may sound, this melancholy is only deepened by Scott's talent for comedy.

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Tusker is a selfish old curmudgeon — a foolish, petty man who treats his loyal wife appallingly — but he's so amusing it's impossible not to warm to him. There's something almost heroic about his habit of getting drunk at inappropriate times, his dignity after a pratfall and his near-total refusal to engage with the world around him. He is someone who can watch his wife struggling over the knitting of a jumper for months, and only complain about the pattern and colours when he gets it for Christmas. Their relationship may be founded on a platform of almost constant bickering, but we come to understand why Lucy loves Tusker: why she reaches for his hand in the night when she wants to laugh, why she can't bear to be without him, and why she treasures the one "love letter" he gives her, even though its only admission of affection is, "You've been a decent wife to me.

As a portrait of a marriage, the book is a triumph. Less effective is the investigation of the new capitalists in India. The Indian woman who represents them, Mrs Bhoolabhoy — the landlady who has the Smalleys under her control — is a caricature.

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Revalidation Welcome to the revalidation microsite. Lucy also corresponds with Sarah Layton; a main character from the Raj Quartet , so readers will hear what becomes of her some 25 years after the events of the Quartet. None of this is enough to say that you need to read the Quartet first; Staying On can be read as a stand-alone novel. But, since these connections do add to the pleasure of the novel, I wonder if readers would enjoy it as much as I did without reading the Quartet first.

In terms of style, there are some glaring differences between Staying On and the Raj Quartet. Shorter than the Raj novels, it feels denser; the colouring in of the characters and the events of the plot come with greater force and pace. It is also funny, though it is difficult to give a good example of the funniest parts since they are mostly long jokes.

Memsahib sat opposite, her spectacles on the end of her nose, knitting one of the awful pullovers which Sahib grumbled about having to wear. The Raj Quartet , by contrast, is very slow, considered and serious. It reads as something meticulously crafted with plots that slowly unravel and where the story and the characters are, at best, given equal importance to the themes that inspired their creation. Staying On is very different novel; its story and characters, I feel, dominate its themes but it is an achievement of no less skill.

Thematically, there is a little overlap between the Quartet and Staying On. One of the main themes of the Quartet was that frequently, though not entirely, the worst of the English were attracted to India and that India drew out the worst in the English.

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There is some of that present in Staying On , particularly when Lucy looks back at how her life changed when she followed Tusker to India. But, like the style of Staying On , its main themes are a break from the Raj Quartet and are also why it is not entirely a sequel. One of those main themes is, obviously, the legacy of the Raj and the lives of those left behind.

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This was something the setting of the Quartet is too immediate to address directly; only indirectly by inviting reflection on the part of the reader, reading stories written long after events. Staying On , set in and published in is obviously more contemporary. The theme of the those left behind when the Raj ended is not just reflected in the lives of English like Lucy and Tusker, who found they would probably be better off financially in India which may have become more of a home to them than England could ever be again, fighting feelings of loneliness and abandonment that come with those realisations.

It is also in the lives of Indian converts to Christianity like Mr Bhoolabhoy, who finds the pillar of his identity and community falling into disrepair and inevitable change with the departure of the English. It is also in the lives of mixed-race Eurasians who are outcasts in both the new India and the old. That new India is also a new theme in Staying On. It is in the way that Tusker, like the English in the time of the Raj, continues to indulge the customs of common Indians without understanding their significance or questioning the social propriety of doing so. Since the wealthy Indians of this new era do not, his lone spectacle is all the more glaring. But, as I say, I feel that the story of Staying On takes precedence over these themes.

More than the legacy of the Raj, of those that are staying on or were left behind, or of contrasts between the new and old India; Staying On is, in my opinion, mostly the story of a marriage. And as fun and leisurely a read it may be, it is also quite sad. In the mid-section of the novel, we cease being told the story from a bustling third-person perspective centring on Tusker or Lucy or Ibrahim or Mr Bhoolabhoy in turn.