Mutiny by Julian Rathbone is about 460 pages and the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Both of those things make me happy. For me chubby books are cheesecake level temptation and stories set in India are always to be scooped up.
The British Army enlisted thousands of Indians as soldiers or “sepoys” as the Europeans called them and was reliant on these soldiers to help govern the huge country. If the civilian colonists thought about the natives at all it was as master and servant and not in a pretty Masterpiece Theater way. By 1857 this dynamic had been business as usual for decades. Add to this: oppression, unfair taxes on Indians, the attitudes of the authorities concerning the religions of India, racism and the British owned East India Company’s habit of annexing land from independent Rajas when the company wanted it.
From the moment his recreation of the Rebellion begins Rathbone makes the most of the historical, political, racial, religious and cultural elements available to him to construct an epic. He doesn’t populate the story with the usual historical walk-ons nor does he stray from the actual timeline of the major events of the Rebellion but within these parameters Rathbone has plenty of room to develop plotlines and characters that are good, bad and human. As the stories expand and intertwine Rathbone successfully balances our sympathy and outrage within this ambitious novel.
The Mutiny is old fashioned storytelling but that doesn’t mean that the story is old fashioned. In this novel the view is broad, the action is intimate and the writing is elegant.