Flute

Shona Ramaya, Author
Shona Ramaya, Author Viking Books $17.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-670-82914-9
Reviewed on: 11/28/1989
Release date: 12/01/1989
Ramaya's inspired but uneven novel is set in an intermittently realistic and dreamlike India early in this century. Half-brothers Lord Dane Hartley and Julian, earl of Ravinspur, meet again after a 10-year separation when Julian, involved with Oscar Wilde before the homosexual writer's arrest, visits Dane and Dane's chatty mother Caroline in Phulgarh. Julian forms an ambiguous friendship with the young Indian Nikhil, and becomes rapturously obsessed with the image of the flute-playing god Krishna, declaring the bamboo flute ``his only love.'' In states of mystical delirium, Julian impersonates Krishna while Dane, besotted with dancing girl Sakhi--the local prince's favorite--manifests both rage and affection for his brother. Other friends haunt the kota , a brothel offering girls and boys. The novel suggests India's seductive hold over her colonial British masters, but repetitious passages on Julian's trances and the beauties of the land slow the pace. Choppy, hard-to-follow sequences and an overuse of untranslated foreign phrases also prove discomfiting. Raised in India, Ramaya now lives in New York. (Dec.)
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