Saturday, 10 October 2009

William Darlymple's Nine Lives


Despite Thai Airways' efficient service and the knowledge that I would have a row all to myself as the flight was only half full, spending 12 hours on the flight from Bangkok to London wasn't something I looked forward to. However I bought William Dalrymple's new book Nine Lives to keep me company during the long haul flight.

I had high expectations that this book would be highly enjoyable and informative, and was glad to have found it in paperback version at the airport's bookstore. I'm almost 2/3 through it and have to say that, whilst it's not as well written as the author's previous books, it is nevertheless extremely educational.

Nine Lives is described as an Indian Canterbury Tales, and introduces us to 9 characters with varied and different lives. I thought The Nun's Tale (a poignant portrait of a Jain nun), The Dancer of Kannur (a Theyyam performer) and The Red Fairy (a Sufi female ascetic) to be the most magnetic of the characters, and provide an extraordinary insight in their worlds that most of us can't imagine.

I wish I had read The Dancer of Kannur before my Theyyam of Malabar photo expedition, and will re-read The Red Fairy before my periodic visits to the Sufi shrines in Delhi.illiam