Noble Descents by Gerald Hanley

Noble Descents cover

Recently I read Kipling’s Kim with its colonial India setting, I have to say that I didn’t enjoy it that much, but just a couple of weeks later I picked up Noble Descents by Gerald Hanley which has a post Indian independence setting. I enjoyed that one far more than Kim.

In Noble Descents the characters have chosen to ‘stay on’ in India after independence. Of course for many of the so-called British people India was really their home as they had never even visited England and their family had been in India for generations.

Others had come out from Britain where the jobs they could get were rather low in status and poorly paid. The prospect of living in India where they could afford to have ten servants to shout at was what drew them to India.

Colonel Tim Bingham is one of those ‘staying on’, he’s retired from the army and has always had an affinity with India and an interest in the culture and religions. His closest friend is a Maharajah who feels he doesn’t fit in at all in his own country. He has been educated at an English public school and that culture is the one that he is most comfortable with. After the death of his wife and child the Maharajah feels even less inclined to be what he has been brought up to be.

This is a very readable and at times witty tale involving poisonous marriages and poison pen letters and people from Hollywood intent on making a film.

I found it quite amusing that there are a few characters in it who are making a lot of money from the books they are writing – a very unusual happening in the publishing world and probably wishful thinking by the author.

I was pleased to see my favourite perfume Ma Griffe mentioned a few times – that exquisite perfume as it was described, one character tries to get his boring wife to wear Ma Griffe – but she obviously just wasn’t classy enough!

Ma Griffe by Carven is a Chypre Floral fragrance for women. Ma Griffe was launched in 1946. The nose behind this fragrance is Jean Carles. Top notes are aldehydes, gardenia, green notes, asafoetida, clary sage and lemon; middle notes are iris, orange blossom, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and rose; base notes are labdanum, sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, oakmoss, vetiver and styrax.

India isn’t a favourite destination of mine book-wise but this book had made me think that I might read some more, maybe some of Paul Scott’s books would fit the bill. Have any of you read any of his books?

Some Links

I knew that the author Rosamunde Pilcher lived near Dundee but i hadn’t realised that it was actually Invergowrie that she had her home built. It’s up for sale now and if you’re interested you should have a look at the link below, her house is gorgeous. As you can see it has an outdoor swimming pool, Rosamunde must have been a hardy soul, although the sea in Cornwall where she grew up must have been freezing cold too. I don’t blame her for settling in Invergowrie, it is a beautiful area and happens to be where my youngest son works.

Changing subject completely, I was surprised to read the obituary of Madame Carven in today’s Guardian. I had no idea that she was still alive, she was 105. I didn’t really know anything about her fashion designs but as a person who really doesn’t like heavy perfumes – in fact I always hold my breath when going through the perfume department in any stores, otherwise I’m in real danger of having a three day long migraine triggered off by the ghastly pongs – Madame Carven’s Ma Griffe was the only one which I’ve ever loved and I had no ill effects with it, I’m not even sure if it’s still available as I haven’t seen it for years.