A story that starts with an exhausted protagonist isn’t your typical opening, but the beginning of Monsoon Summer sees Kit taking time out from her midwifery training, ostensibly worn out from nursing through WWII. Wickham Hall provides the safe haven that she craves; she and her mother soon find their place amongst a diverse host of housemates. It is while helping the mistress of the house, Daisy, with her Indian-focused midwifery charity that she meets Anto, a trainee doctor getting ready to return home to a newly independent India. He is handsome, charming and Kit is soon smitten. They marry at the registry office and literally sail off to start a new adventure back in India.
I have to admit that I didn’t really know much about post-Independence India and I loved how the anti-colonial spirit of the Indian people is woven through the events of the novel. Kit is a very naive protagonist, unprepared for the public opinion that she receives upon her arrival in the country. Her reputation as a medical professional, wife and even woman are all questioned in the light of serious anti-British sentiment.
While the love story between Kit and Anto is important, the mothers (both his and hers) really do steal the show. While both our main characters develop and change over the course of the text, it is the mothers that reveal a multitude of layers -some that are very unexpected. The way that Gregson slowly reveals attitudes built over decades of misfortune and experience is something quite special and propels the action forward, more so than the romance of the story.
Monsoon Summer, I think, is aptly named. The story combines the heat of romance with the turmoil of an budding independent nation, bringing with it threads of both terror and beauty. I recommend this book for the reader that doesn’t want to be treated gently; one who is open to the beauty and grit that comes with weathering the storm.