Book Review

“Monsoon Summer” by Julia Gregson

Monsoon Summer: A NovelDescription: By the award-winning author of East of the Sun, an epic love story moving from England to India, about the forbidden love between a young Indian doctor and an English midwife.

Oxfordshire, 1947. Kit Smallwood, hiding a painful secret and exhausted from nursing soldiers during the Second World War, escapes to Wickam Farm where her friend is setting up a charity sending midwives to the Moonstone Home in South India. Then Kit meets Anto, an Indian doctor finishing his medical training at Oxford. But Kit’s light skinned mother is in fact Anglo-Indian with secrets of her own, and Anto is everything she does not want for her daughter.

Despite the threat of estrangement, Kit is excited for the future, hungry for adventure, and deeply in love. She and Anto secretly marry and set off for South India—where Kit plans to run the maternity hospital she’s helped from afar. But Kit’s life in India does not turn out as she imagined. Anto’s large, traditional family wanted him to marry an Indian bride and find it hard to accept Kit. Their relationship under immense strain, Kit’s job is also fraught with tension as they both face a newly independent India, where riots have left millions dead and there is deep-rooted suspicion of the English. In a rapidly changing world, Kit’s naiveté is to land her in a frightening and dangerous situation…

Based on true accounts of European midwives in India, Monsoon Summer is a powerful story of secrets, the nature of home, the comforts and frustrations of family, and how far we’ll go to be with those we love.

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The recently released novel “Monsoon Summer” by Julia Gregson took me on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster as the main characters Kit and Anto met and fell in love. Their newfound love was exciting as they stole moments in secret for the first few moments. However, just as secrets always come out, this novel portrays how Kit and Anto’s relationship evolved once they were forced to deal with the realities of their situation. At a tumultuous time for the British interacting with Indians, British nurse Kit and Indian doctor Anto turned their lives and their families upside down when they married after a few short months together. At the height of their independence from England, the couple moved to India.
Gregson did a remarkable job of portraying the time from how Kit and Anto interacted when they first met to beginning their lives as an unwelcome interracial couple. All of the details from the various ways people dressed to the poverty depicted to the attitudes of the Indians toward the British, I felt transported to this time and place in ways that had previously been completely unknown.
I haven’t read many books about British-Indian relations or Indian culture. While the patriarchal structure wasn’t surprising, it was astonishing to read about the perception of midwives in India and their caste system. Particularly in a place where there were so many midwives and it was difficult to give birth at a hospital, I expected midwives to be much more common and respected than the world that Gregson showed.
The novel was a bit slow at times. I actually expected a lot more tension between the families toward the couple. Anto’s mother blamed a lot of what went wrong on Kit when sending her son away at such a young age for so long was bound to distance him from the family, but Amma was also one of the strongest most stabilizing characters in the book.
“Monsoon Summer” was overall a terrific portrayal of life and love, particularly as it changes over the course of a relationship and throughout the years. Some people fall apart and others fight to stay together. In this case, despite the white lies and struggles, Kit and Anto’s love was inspiring in the way they chose to support and accept each other.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JULIA GREGSON

Julia Gregson has worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent in the UK, Australia, and the US. Her novel East of the Sun was a major bestseller in the UK and won the Romantic Novel of the Year Prize and the Le Prince Maurice Prize there.  Her short stories have been published in collections and magazines and read on the radio. She lives in Monmouthshire, Wales.
Buy on Amazon or check it out on Goodreads
*I received this ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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