‘In the afternoon everything came to a standstill. The fragrant khus-khus tatties were lowered over every window and door, and the bhistis drenched them with water…..As the water evaporated from the sweet-smelling grass blinds and the punkahs circulated cool air around the darkened rooms, it was possible in those couple of hours to drift off into a hypnotic sleep of the sort that only a tropical afternoon could induce’
– The Tainted
[ About the Book ]
Its spring 1920 in the small military town of Nandagiri in south-east India. Colonel Aylmer, commander of the Royal Irish Kildare Rangers, is in charge. A distance away, decently hidden from view, lies the native part of Nandagiri with its heaving bazaar, reeking streets and brothels.
Everyone in Nandagiri knows their place and the part they were born to play – with one exception. The local Anglo-Indians, tainted by their mixed blood, belong . . . nowhere.
When news of the Black and Tans’ atrocities back in Ireland reaches the troops in India, even their priest cannot cool the men’s hot-headed rage. Politics vie with passion as Private Michael Flaherty pays court to Rose, Mrs Aylmer’s Anglo-Indian maid . . . but mutiny brings heroism and heartbreak in equal measure. Only the arrival of Colonel Aylmer’s grandson Richard, some 60 years later, will set off the reckoning, when those who were parted will be reunited, and those who were lost will be found again
[ My Review ]
The Tainted by Cauvery Madhavan was recently published (April 30th) with Hope Road Publishing and really is a stunning evocation of time and place.
The Tainted is a novel that is very rich in atmospheric detail, immediately transporting the reader into the seething heat of a small military town in India in the spring of 1920. Nandagiri is home to the Royal Irish Kildare Rangers and it is where Michael Flaherty is settling in, having recently arrived from Ireland. Michael is one of many Irishmen who joined the British army to earn a wage. Life in Ireland during that period was very challenging and work was difficult to come by, so joining up was the only option for many to earn a few pounds to send back home. The transition from the cooler climate of Ireland to the heat and sounds of India was something that Michael was adjusting to but he was determined to make it work.
Colonel Aylmer was the Commander in charge of the Rangers, a man whose family residence was in Ireland. Michael Flaherty’s family had worked for the Aylmers and this relationship opened up opportunities for the young Private, with him soon taking up the position of ‘batman’ for the Colonel. It is during this time that Michael finally gets the opportunity to acquaint himself with Rose Twomey, maid to Mrs. Aylmer.
Rose Twomey is Anglo-Indian. With her father originally from Glengarriff in West Cork, Rose has a dream to return there with him some day. She has always felt that Ireland, although a place she had never been to, is her true home. Rose becomes smitten with Michael Flaherty, this young impetuous and cheeky Irish boy, and their fragile relationship opens up possibilities and adventures that she could previously only imagine.
Cauvery Madhavan beautifully explores their relationship and the many difficulties they encountered. Theirs was a love that was immediately beset with insurmountable challenges. A fictional recounting of a true event is a powerful and shocking twist in this tale. In 1920, Irish soldiers, members of the Connaught Rangers, staged a mutiny in protest against the Black and Tans barbaric activities in Ireland during the Irish War of Independence. Tragically a number of these soldiers died and in 1970 their bodies were eventually repatriated to Ireland and buried there. In The Tainted this event was to have harrowing consequences that would be felt by many for generations to follow. As we journey sixty years ahead to the 1980s, the true ramifications are slowly revealed.
The Tainted explores the identity of the Anglo-Indian community. With their mixed blood, this was a people who didn’t belong anywhere at a time when one’s social standing was considered very important. Harsh social protocols caused much confusion and pain as people struggled to come to terms with who they were. Sadly society can be very cruel with such an ideology still in existence in many cultures today. As the book shifts to the 1980s, it is clear that the struggle was still very much prevalent.
” We’re tainted – we were never white enough then and will never be brown enough now”
The Tainted is a compelling read as it follows the tumultuous journey of a people who were caught up in a period of history that was to have enormous impact on generations for years to come. Cauvery Madhavan has written a very captivating tale that captures the sense of loss and the enormous after-affects of colonialism and the legacy that remains.
I have to mention the STUNNING cover of The Tainted. Designed by James Nunn, it was inspired by matchbox covers from the 1920s. You can find out more about his incredible artwork and illustrations at James Nunn It really is very striking and eye-catching book cover.
The Tainted is a wonderfully engrossing novel that is written with a very knowledgeable hand. Cauvery Madhavan although born in India, has chosen Ireland as her home for the last thirty years. Her experience of these two dynamic cultures lends such an authenticity to her writing offering the reader a fascinating, insightful and truly emotional read.
The Tainted takes the reader on an epic journey where all the senses are awakened. The descriptions are vivid, the emotions are raw, the fear is palpable, the longing is heartbreaking. As the searing heat bounces off the pages, you are assailed by imagined scents and beautiful vistas. Reading The Tainted is a remarkable and unforgettable experience, one I highly recommend!
[ Bio ]
Cauvery Madhavan was born and educated in India. She worked as a copywriter in her hometown of Chennai (formerly Madras).
Cauvery moved to Ireland thirty-three years ago and has been in love with the country ever since.
Her other books are: Paddy Indian and The Uncoupling.
She lives with her husband and three children in beautiful County Kildare
Twitter ~ @CauveryMadhavan