Linda Holeman really deserves to be better known. Her books seem to be difficult to find outside the UK and Canada which is sad because she’s such a good writer. Last year I read The Moonlit Cage and enjoyed it so much I couldn’t wait to read another of her historical fiction novels. In a Far Country is part of a trilogy with The Linnet Bird and The Moonlit Cage, but they are all stand-alone books and can be read in any order.
In a Far Country is set in British-ruled India in the late 19th century and tells the story of Pree Fincastle, the daughter of two British missionaries living on an isolated mission near Lahore. Left alone and penniless after her parents’ tragic deaths, Pree sets off to look for her childhood friend, Kai, the only person she can turn to for help.
I found this book difficult to get into at first. Holeman spent a lot of time setting the scene and introducing us to Pree and her parents, so that the story didn’t really begin until around 150 pages into the book. From this point onwards, though, the pace picked up and I was hooked. I really liked the character of Pree. Since the book is told in the first person from her point of view, we get to experience all her emotions as she grows up at the lonely, impoverished mission house and as her life is turned upside down by the deaths of her parents.
The only criticism I have of both this book and The Moonlit Cage is that I just don’t feel enough connection to the male characters. I think Linda Holeman writes female characters much better than she does male. I found that Kai remained cold and aloof throughout the entire book and considering Pree loved and trusted him enough to turn to him when she was in trouble, I didn’t feel much warmth, passion or humour coming from him at all. This was almost exactly the same reaction I had to David Ingram in The Moonlit Cage.
However, one of Holeman’s strengths is in her wonderfully evocative and colourful descriptions of the places she’s writing about. She chooses just the right words to convey the sights, sounds and smells of India. If you had never read a book set in India before, this would probably be a good introduction.
Despite the length of this book, it was surprisingly quick to read. Perfect if you’re looking for a big, heartbreaking historical fiction novel to lose yourself in for a few days.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Pages: 640/Publisher: Headline Review/Year: 2008/Source: My own copy bought used