The prologue (August 1995) in The Road Back ties up with Part Two. It’s difficult to say any more as I don’t want to write any spoilers! It is an integral part to the story.
Chapter One finds us in London in 1951. The reader is introduced to Patricia Carstairs childhood and the expectations of her father, Major George Carstairs. He is pedantic and has a saturnine personality, dominating her home life. We also find out about Patricia’s brother James. Chapter Two we meet Kalden and we’re introduced to his family and the way of life of the Buddhist village, Ladakh.
From this moment, alternating chapters involve us in their lives until the point where Patricia accompanies her father to Ladakh when she is almost 18. Kalden is their guide. When they meet, the connection is there straight away although very innocent. They have the chance to spend time alone and so their intimacy develops. A tragedy occurs and Patricia makes her own way back to England.
In Part Two the past steps into Patricia’s present and she makes a trip back to Ladakh in September 1995.
The Road Back is so beautifully written. The move from London and the Major’s personality to the times we spend in Ladakh with the gentle Buddhist way of life is seamless, even though they are totally opposite. The style of writing is clearly delineated. The scenery and environment in Ladakh is crafted so well that the reader doesn’t need to expend much energy in feeling like they are there!
“Kalden stood in his favourite place at the top of a steep slope that fell sharply to the water’s edge, and watched the thick morning mist inch its way up the crimson and green walls of the mountain, gradually uncovering the narrow ravine below and opening the beauty of the valley to his gaze.”
I enjoyed learning about the customs of the village in the early 1950’s, for instance after the harvest had finished and Kalden and his family are in traditional clothes and celebrating;
“The music and laughter in the kitchen almost drowned out the sound of the monks who were in the family’s altar room above the kitchen. Chanting to the rhythmic beat of the drums, they offered prayers for the happiness and prosperity of Kalden’s family and for all the families in the world, and placed before the altar pyramids of barley dough that they’d made and decorated with butter and flower petals.”
I also enjoyed seeing how the environment had changed in the mid 90’s (some things remain the same).
I am a romantic at heart and Patricia and Kalden’s love is pure. I was so heartbroken when the tragedy happened and felt such deep sadness that Patricia had spent all those years in England alone. When Patricia returns to Ladkakh when she’s 52, accompanied by Amy, I really didn’t see what was coming. The final 14 pages were read through tears and a couple of times full-blown sobbing. Perfect, perfect ending :-)
This is a story that not only completely satisfies the romantics amongst us, but also takes us out of the confines of our lives and lets us experience another culture. I have loved everything about The Road Back. I’ve been totally engaged with the story from the first page. A stunning debut from Liz Harris and one I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending. The Road Back is a ‘keeper’ for me.
I would like to thank the publishers for a copy in exchange for an honest review. No money has been exchanged.
This review was blogged first at http://jerasjamboree.wordpress.com