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TITLE Heat and dust

AUTHOR  Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

PUBLISHER Oxford University


LEVEL 5 (1800 words)

GENRE  fiction


time  1923 and 1970s

place    India


Olivia is the first protagonist and she is Douglas Rivers' first wife. He's an assistant British official in Satipur. There is the Nawab, the Indian prince of Khatm, a state 15 miles away from Satipur; his friend and guest, Harry; his mother, the Begum; his wife, Sandy Cabobpur, who's living away from him. There are the Rivers' friends: Mr Crawford, who's a chief British official in Satipur, and Beth, his wife; Major Arthur Minnies, who's a political agent appointed to advise the Nawab, and Mary, his wife; and Dr Saunders, who's the British doctor at the hospital, and Joan, his wife. And there is Tessie, Beth's sister and Douglas' second wife.


We can't know the name of the second protagonist, because the book's a diary and the author didn't write her name. SHE is Douglas Rivers' granddaughter. Her grandmother isn't Olivia, is Tessie. There is her landlord in Satipur, Inder Lal, his wife, Ritu; her mother; a friend of Inder Lal's mother, Maji. And Chid (Chidananda), an Englishman interested in Indian religion.


The book tells the story of two women: a woman in the present, who was interested in the story of a woman in the past. They both came to India, but they visited a different India, separated by 50 years. They both came from England, but a different England. One women was married and dependent, the other was single and independent. Their lives are different but, in the heat and dust of the Indian summer, all differences melt away and their history became similar.

Olivia was an Englishwomen; she lived in Satipur, in India, when the British were in control. She and her husband lived in a close circle of British friends and their life was tranquil. When Douglas was out to work, Olivia spent her time playing the piano. One day she met the Nawab and she began to visit him at Khatm. Olivia loved her husband very much, but her life was boring and she liked the Nawab. After some time she wasn't pregnant and she wanted a baby. One day she and the Nawab went to the shrine and they made love under a tree. She became pregnant, but she decided not to have the baby, because the baby wasn't Douglas' baby, but the Nawab's. A short time later she left her husband in September 1923 and ran away to live with the Nawab. Later that year, Douglas met Tessie and when he got his divorce from Olivia, they got married. They had a son.

The diary's author was an Englishwoman; she lived in Satipur. She came to India, because she wanted to know the Olivia's story. She spent her time reading Olivia's letters, writing her diary and talking with Inder Lal. One day he and the writer went to the shrine and made loved under a tree. She became pregnant and she decided to have the baby, because she and her landlord loved. Each other she lived in India for ever, on the side of the mountain, with her baby.


We often say the personal relationship have changed in these years. But in this book I can see that things have not changed. Year after year, it is the same.


It was very difficult for me to write a commentary of this book. I liked it very much. At the first time I didn't t understand the story, because it is very intricate. In a chapter the author tells about the life of a woman in 1923; in another chapter she writes about the life of a woman in the present.

It was difficult for me also because this book was my first English book and I had to accustom myself to reading in English. I didn't understand a lot of words, but I liked "Heat and Dust" very much and I didn't yield. At the end I was satisfied.


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