Tusker and Lily Smalley stayed on in India. Given the chance to return ‘home’ when Tusker, once a Colonel in the British Army, retired, they chose instead to remain in the small hill town of Pankot, with its eccentric inhabitants and archaic rituals left over from the days of the Empire. Only the tyranny of their imposing landlady threatens to upset the quiet rhythm of their days. Both funny and deeply moving, 'Staying On' is a unique, engrossing portrait of the end of an empire and of a forty-year love affair.
I was gifted this title for my birthday a few months back and was surprised to realise that I had missed reading it during my school years. First, the Raj, where I was born, has a special fascination. Secondly, I thought I'd read most of the Booker winners. Thirdly, I've read Scott's other works, so how did I miss this. Then I started reading it and got an inkling. I think I might have started this twenty years ago and just not got into it. Fortunately, times have changed and I truly enjoyed this very pleasant listen.
The Raj parts were a bit dated, a bit like Raj India now. It reminded me of my grandparents. I smelled the old decay in the early evening and the transition of a time that refuses (even to this day) to finally lie down and die.
The story really is a bit of nothing, but it is told well, with a suppressed love and a slight longing. I enjoyed the odd pidgin word and the figurative shake of a be-turbaned head.
It took me a bit to get used to Paul Shelley, but ultimately I warmed to him and he to his subject.
I will be passing this little gem onto those who love and have loved old India.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I was a huge fan of Paul Scott when his novels "The Jewel in the Crown" first started being published, waiting for each subsequent novel of the eventual Raj Quartet. Now rereading the epilogue read by Paul Shelly - who is truly a brilliant performer, I am reminded again of Scott's greatness , and his sad death at an early age.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Can a book be well-written but terribly dull? This book reminded me of obligatory lunches with my 98-year old great aunt, whose only interests are bridge, attending Anglican Church services and complaining about her gardener. I really tried to finish it, but finally decided that life is too short.
This is beautifully poignant epilogue to the earlier Raj Quartet series (The Jewel in the Crown as televised), and to British India and the lives of the British in India. British racial attitudes are of course in evidence, as they were inseparable from that history, but there can be no other writer who so successfully evokes the tragedy and melancholy of what India meant to colonial Britons. Paul Scott's familiarity with a now vanished world are as essential as are Indian perspectives to recapturing the faint echoes of the Raj.
What a well written book with a rather bleak ending i was so sad to say goodbye to the characters , they were written in a way that i felt i knew them and was apart of their everyday lives. Poor poor lucy
Would you listen to Staying On again? Why?
I laughed; I cried; I was moved and learned a few things along the way. What a fabulous book! Absolutely loved it! I read this book for my book club and I have to thank Celia for suggesting it. This was such a delight to read. I loved the characters, the places and the story. I recommend this book to everyone. What a gem!!!
What did you like best about this story?
I loved the interactions between the characters.
What about Paul Shelley’s performance did you like?
Paul was a phenomenal reader. He did all the accents perfectly. He made the story alive. Awesome narrator!!
If you could rename Staying On, what would you call it?
I would not change a thing.
What made the experience of listening to Staying On the most enjoyable?
The sensitivity, the humor, the storytelling, and language of a great British novelist.
What other book might you compare Staying On to and why?
The Short Stories of William Trevor, because of the seamless manner with which both authors move between the past. the present and the future, the internal dialogue and the external action. The sensibilities of the characters and thus the authors. Their subtlety and ability to spot the quiet moral dilemmas of ordinary lives.
Have you listened to any of Paul Shelley’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
No, I don't believe so.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Any additional comments?
Paul Scott, author of the Raja Quartet, as well as a number of other wonderful novels, is one of the most overlooked and greatest writers of the 20th Century. In that respect he is like John Fowles, who wrote the Magus, which is perhaps one of the top five novels of the 20th Century and which sadly and inexplicitly has never been made into an audible book.
Staying On is a wonderful book, clever and touching, only marred by a few of the non-British characters rendered as caricatures. Shelley is a very good reader; Scott's Lucy and Tusker get another layer of depth from his characterisations of them. I recommend it enthusiastically.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
A book that I found hard to put down. A book that brought the emotions and memories together of a life lived in India from the 1930 until 1972. Sad but also happy memories intertwined in a beautiful story.
I read Staying On years ago, I think it may have won the booker prize. I had read the Raj quartet and really enjoyed it and at that the time was a little disappointed with this post script. After the range and drama of the Quartet its quiet humanity Seemed a bit of a letdown.However I’m really pleased I bought the audiobook, a really good moving story with great characters, well read, a really worthwhile listen. Thoroughly recommended.