When Mair Ellis clears out her father’s house after his death, she finds and exquisite, antique shawl, painstakingly hand-embroidered and worth a fortune. Wrapped with it is a lock of child’s hair – but not her mother’s.
Tracing her grandparents’ roots back to India and Kashmir, Mair is inspired to unlock the secrets of the past, a journey that throws her into the path of unrest, tragedy and drama that will change her own life forever…
I’ve read a few of Rosie Thomas’ books and always enjoyed them. When I heard that her new book had some Welsh involvement I was pretty confidant that I’d enjoy this one too and I was right.
There are two key plot lines within the book, there is the story of Mair who is trying to trace her grandparents’ story and discover where this beautiful shawl came from, and there is the story of her grandparents, Nerys and Evan Watkins, and their time in India as missionaries. The narrative moves back and forward between these two plotlines fairly seamlessly, I quite often find that when there are two plotlines in this way there is one that I’m more interested in – I couldn’t pick a favourite out of these two.
I really liked the character of Mair, she developed so much throughout the book. I found her struggle with her identity interesting to read, and the slow realisation of who she was and where she belonged worked well for me. I loved that she was quite unconventional, the fact she did actually run off and join the circus as a teenager made me take to her instantly.
The group of ladies, from the historical sections of the book were all wonderful, particularly Nerys. I loved the way they balanced each other out, and gave a real insight into life for British women in Kashmir at the time. For me the way that they were all developed was one of the real strengths of the book.
Wales doesn’t appear that much in the book, but when it did it felt very genuine and made me feel all warm and comfy. The descriptions of Kashmir were really well done, I felt like I was transported both geographically and historically. This is one of the reasons I love fiction set in other times and / or places – I love the opportunity to travel via a book.
I really enjoyed this book, I’ve seen other reviews suggesting it was a little long but I loved the fact I could fall head first into it and get completely lost in it. This book definitely gets the thumbs up from me.
The Kashmir Shawl is published in trade paperback by Harper Collins in the UK from priced £12.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.