Cholera, Colonialism, poverty, and class disparity – all the makings for a great uplifting novel, no? Kimberly Duffy has managed to pull off a story of faith, determination and grace encompassing all of these things. It was a novel I couldn’t read quickly, because I didn’t want to miss anything.
Set in 1886 Calcutta, we meet Ottilie Russel. She is greiving the loss of her parents, while caring for her brother Thaddeus and her grandmother. She is filled at beetle-wing embroidery (look up images of this – it’s breathtakingly beautiful!), to assure a pittance of money still comes into their home.
Her life quickly gets more complicated when a few events align. A stranger arrives to inform them that Thaddeus is actually heir to a British title and lordship, and her grandmother falls victim to the same illness that took her parents. Never could she imagine how challenging life would be when she agrees that she and Thaddeus will go to England.
Sometimes a book falls into your hands, and it parallels issues in your own everyday world. As I was reading this, the first hidden realities of the horrific residentials schools in my our country started to come to life. The discovery of 215 children buried in unmarked graves is causing us to face the disarming decisions our forefathers made in the name on civilizing our nrew country.
The characters were so well portrayed, that I’m sure their conversations were based in reality and not just a work of fiction. The truth of 19th century classism hit such a nerve, that I had to do some introspection to see if I still hold some of those attitudes.
While a great work of fiction, I think that this is a timely read – especially for those wrestling with the reckoning facing our communities in these days.
“Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”