Top positive review
A Superb Tale from the Raj
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 February 2022
Cochin Fall is set in British Cochin, a small enclosure in the Indian Sate of Kerala. It takes place during the 1930s when not only were there successful British spice trading companies in the area but opium trafficking operated illicitly as well. Both trade and opium enter this story.
Clara Saunders returns from school in England, a young woman, very beautiful and intelligent, aged circa eighteen, full of excitement to be back in India with her successful trader family, hoping now to become engaged to George Goddard, her childhood sweetheart. He is from another spice trading family, The Goddards, thus uniting the two families as Clara will ,in time ,inherit her family’s business. Clara is befriended by Lizzie, George’s sister, also returned from school in England. This is an era when the daughters of the Raj were chaperoned and marriages were arranged by families, as, indeed poor Lizzie’s is to be and to a man whom she has never met.
Lizzie falls for ambitious , handsome but edgy Lewis very early in the novel and she tries to manipulate Clara into arranging meetings between herself and the object of her desire. Unfortunately for her Lewis has other somewhat devious plans. Lewis works for Saunders and Company, for Clara’s family. No spoilers but it’s obvious early on he is not the charming man Lizzie thinks he is.
This is one of the best plotted intricate novels I have read this year so far. It is also a story full of gorgeous atmospheric descriptions of Cochin and it contains intriguing characterisation. The personalities vividly leap from its pages and I appreciated that they are characters who change as the narrative proceeds towards its surprising conclusion. Naturally, I loved Clara and felt empathy for Lizzie. Cochin Fall is an excellently researched novel that grips a reader from its first chapter until the delightfully satisfying ending with lots of jeopardy in between. I leave you with a teaser- ‘you say you love me, but does a man who truly loves a woman believe the worst of that woman without question. And does a man in love bring disgrace to not only the woman he loves , but to her family too?’
This, after all, is the Raj and the novel is true to its mores. Highly recommended.