Heat and Dust is set in the 1920’s, a time India was chaffing under the rule of the British Raj. It tells the story of a young Englishwoman, Olivia, swept away by the charm and passion of an Indian Prince. Her relationship with the Prince causes a scandal, embarrassing her husband Douglas. British wives of the upper classes were not expected to socialize with the natives. When she becomes pregnant and uncertain as to the child’s father, it forces cataclysmic events in her life. Long after her death, the memories of her forbidden love still linger. Decades later a relative of Olivia’s jilted husband is fascinated by her story. The young woman travels to India in the 1970’s, revisiting the places Olivia lived, and falls under India’s spell. Heat and Dust won the Man Booker prize in 1975.
— Deon Stonehouse
The Booker Prize–winning novel—intertwining the narratives of two women, past and present, and their relationships to India—from the novelist, short story writer, and two–time Academy Award–winning screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Partly set in colonial India during the 1920s, Heat and Dust tells the story of Olivia, a beautiful woman suffocated by the propriety and social constraints of her position as the wife of an important English civil servant. Longing for passion and independence, Olivia is drawn into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in gang raids and criminal plots. She is intrigued by the Nawab's charm and aggressive courtship, and soon begins to spend most of her days in his company. But then she becomes pregnant, and unsure of the child's paternity, she is faced with a wrenching dilemma. Her reaction to the crisis humiliates her husband and outrages the British community, breeding a scandal that lives in collective memory long after her death.
About the Author
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is the author of nineteen books. She is the recipient of Booker Prize, a MacArthur fellowship, and has been honored with an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Jhabvala's screenplays for Merchant–Ivory Productions have earned two Academy Awards. Jhabvala and her husband divide their time between Delhi and New York.
Praise for Heat and Dust:
“A superb book. A complex story line, handled with dazzling assurance... moving and profound. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has not only written a love story, she has also exposed the soul and nerve ends of a fascinating and compelling country. This is a book of cool, controlled brilliance. It is a jewel to be treasured.” —The Times
“Her tussle with India is one of the richest treats of contemporary literature.” —The Guardian
“A writer of genius ... a writer of world class — a master storyteller.” —Sunday Times
“Heat and Dust is an obscure and somber novel, tense with undisclosed judgments and meanings that crouch and whisper just beyond one's reach.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Crafted with technical skill as assured as it is unobtrusive, this delicately written novel is, because of its setting and its theme of Anglo–Indian relationships, reminiscent of E.M. Forster's great novel, A Passage to India. It does not suffer by comparison.” —The Washington Post
“A penetrating and compassionate love story, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has exposed the soul and nerve ends of a fascinating and compelling country ... This is a book of cool, controlled brilliance. It is a jewel to be treasured.” —The London Times