“Dignity” by Alys Conran

Thanks to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been procrastinating on this review for a few days because I always seem to struggle more when writing positive reviews. I know I’m not alone in this but it’s weird, is it human nature to focus more on the negative? When I like something I tend to be quite effusive about it but “BUY THIS BOOK OMG IT’S SO GOOD” is a little less thoughtful than “I struggled with the characterisation”. Perhaps it’s because we tend to be more thoughtful when critiquing someone elses work? Anyhoo, I digress.

So, Dignity by Alys Conran. What’s it all about? This story follows three different viewpoints:

– Evelyn, a newly married woman living in colonial India.

– Magda, Evelyn’s daughter an elderly woman living in present day Britain.

– Susheela, a young college student who also works as a carer for Magda.

Each point of view is distinctive and you really get a feel for each of the characters and their unique personalities. Usually in these kinds of novels I prefer one character over the others but with this book I loved them all. LOVED.

Each of the three characters experience their own struggles. Evelyn suffers isolation and homesickness as she struggles to adapt to life in India under the Raj. Susheela has to look after her widowed father, juggling work, college and a PTSD affected ex boyfriend, and Magda is having to face the ghosts of her past and in doing so keeps people at a distance by being as caustic and difficult as possible.

There’s a lot to love in this book. The descriptions of colonial India are beautiful and sumptuous and the realities of life under the Raj are explored for both Evelyn and also the native Indian population. In Susheela and Magda’s timeline there are echoes of the impact of Brexit and a resurgence in far right ideology and the increasing casual acceptance of racism. The realities of poverty, debt, life in a seaside town and insecure employment are also explored as Susheela states:

The enduring scars of war, trauma, mental illness, child loss, abortion and spousal abuse are also explored sensitively. Despite some of the difficult themes in this book, there is also joy and love to be found. Strong female friendships play a huge role and if you aren’t crying by the end you’re even more hard hearted than I am.

This is a beautiful, wonderful novel and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this author going forward. Buy it!

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