My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is the third one of the series The Raj Quartet.
Some historical background which is important in order to follow the plot:
Pankot, Barbie Batchlor’s new home:
Gandhi’s quit India resolution (Quit India Movement), August 14th, 1942.
…the defeat of the Japanese attempt to invade India at Imphal…
The plot is set in Pankot which is a “second class” hill station in the province which serves as a headquarters for the 1st Pankot Rifles, an important regiment of the Indian Army, who fought the Axis (the alignment of nations that fought in the Second World War against the Allied forces) in North Africa.
This is the story of Barbie Batchelor, an old missionary schoolteacher, who, after years of service to the church, decides to take her pension and retire. She finds a place as a paying guest with Mabel Layton, a member of the aristocracy of the English in India, at Rose Cottage in Pankot. Barbie and Mabel become close. Late one night, Mabel tells Barbie that she will only go to Ranpur when she’s buried, which Barbie interprets to mean that she wants to be buried in Ranpur, next to the grave of her late husband, James Layton.
Barbie is proud of her working class background and her simple Christianity, but she does her best to behave in a manner that makes upper-class Pankot comfortable. Unfortunately, they will never accept her as one of their own, treating her as a peculiar and unwanted intruder.
This book’s title is related to the Parsee’s Tower of Silence which is a circular, raised structure used by Zoroastrians for exposure of the dead, particularly to scavenging birds.
The sequel of this book is The Division of Spoils and is the final part of the Raj Quartet.