Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sunlight on a broken column (Hosain)

I spotted Sunlight on a broken column at work the other day; someone had ordered it up from the Bodleian bookstacks. It wasn't one I'd ever seen so I read the blurb and was immediately intrigued. As I've often said before, the VMC collection covers so many different worlds, in terms of time, space...and now religion. I haven't come across another VMC dealing with Muslim life before (although do let me know if you know of one). I wanted my own copy, but it is extortionately expensive on Amazon, but luckily the local library had a hardback of a different edition, so having at least seen the VMC version, I decided to read it.

It was an extremely rich read, painting evocative pictures of life in the 1930s in a Muslim family in India. It centres around the character of Leila, an orphan girl who is brought up by her deeply religious aunts. Aged 15, she moves to live with her Uncle, at a time when the independence issue (at this time, India was struggling to gain independence from Great Britain) becomes increasingly pointed, and those around her are involved in politics. Her Uncle is quite a big contrast to the aunts, he is more liberal, and Leila struggles to make sense of the two different households against the political climate.

I found a fascinating interview with the author online here which sheds far more light on the book than I can.

This book has some intriguing cover history it seems. It's been published only in an original green edition, but there is also a penguin green edition. This isn't hugely unusual, but what is unusual is that the penguin green edition has a different cover image to the Virago version. Hvae never seen this before in over 300 VMCs! Has anyone else seen this on one of the VMCs that I have yet to come to?


  1. I was just wondering, if I were to be searching through a bookshop, other than the green cover is there anything else that would make VMC's stand out from other novels?

  2. This sounds really interesting. I've never really read anything about a Muslim woman's experience and I'd like to. I must say, I prefer the Penguin edition copy - much more representative of the book by the sounds of it. Interesting about the cover change - I haven't seen enough VMCs to be able to answer that question!