The Kashmir Shawl: Book summary and reviews of The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas

The Kashmir Shawl

A Novel

By Rosie Thomas

The Kashmir Shawl
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2013,
    480 pages.

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Book Summary

Over three decades of writing, bestselling novelist Rosie Thomas has earned an untold number of awards and glowing critical praise. Like Penny Vincenzi, Thomas has long enthralled readers around the world.

It is 1941 and World War II has engulfed the globe. Newlywed Nerys Watkins leaves rural Wales for the first time in her life, to accompany her husband on a missionary posting to India. When her husband leaves her in the exotic lakeside city of Srinagar to take on a more dangerous mission, Nerys discovers a new world. Here, in the heart of romantic Kashmir, the colonists dance, flirt, and gossip as if there is no war. Nerys becomes caught up in a dangerous liaison, and by the time she is reunited with her husband, she is a different woman.

Years later, when Mair Ellis clears out her dead father's house, she finds an exquisite shawl. Wrapped in its folds is a lock of child's hair. Tracing her grandparents' roots back to Kashmir, Mair embarks on a quest that will change her life forever ...

A sweeping multigenerational tale of marriage, isolation, and finding love in a magical place, The Kashmir Shawl is the inimitable Rosie Thomas at her very best.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Although the narrative drags in spots, and Nair's anticlimactic investigation is less compelling than Nerys' adventures, this is a finely wrought story of emotional and geographical displacement." - Kirkus Reviews

"The premise of an old shawl triggering such an extensive journey is a weak construct and advances the story only at a molasses pace. Moreover, Mair never fully reaches her potential as an interesting protagonist. Though Thomas falls short in providing a present-day storyline, she makes up for it with the compelling, scandalous tale of Nerys in 1940s India, set against the dynamic backdrop of Kashmir." - Publishers Weekly

"Rosie Thomas writes with beautiful, effortless prose, and shows a rare compassion and a real understanding of the nature of love." - The Times

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Carol Nofziger
The Kashmir Shawl .... mystery
I enjoyed this book a lot ... but have failed to learn who Nerys became a mother to in order to be Mair's grandmother. Can someone help me?

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Becky H
A great story and great writing
I loved this book. The writing is gorgeous. I found myself rereading passages to savor the words. That is, until I got caught up in the story! Now I am planning to reread the book so I can appreciate the writing skill that is so evident.
The characters are real. The conversations are real. The situations the characters find themselves in are real. The only flaw (if it is a flaw) is that all of the ends are tied up so neatly – especially Farida and Zahra – that one was just too pat.
The differing marriages that are explored would make a great topic for book groups – what makes a marriage or fail, what is a failed marriage, how are marriages different, what forces do family and culture play on marriage, who is responsible for making a marriage work, etc.
I learned a lot about India that changed my perspective on the current situation with China, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. I also enjoyed learning a bit about World War II and British India.
There were times when I would have appreciated a glossary of the Indian terms and occasions used in the book. I wondered what “afternoon bread” was and how it differed from other breads. A map would have been helpful – I printed one off the Internet, but, of course, not all of the places mentioned were on any one map and trying to overlay them just didn’t work.
I would strongly recommend this book to book groups that are interested in family issues, history, ethnic culture, mystery and just great writing. I could not decide if this was “women’s” fiction, historical fiction, romance, and finally decided literary fiction was the most accurate.
I have a pashima from my daughter’s two and a half years living in Kazakhstan – of course not nearly as elegant or beautiful as Nerys’ - but even with only two colors, the design woven in fine wool threads on my shawl, is different on the two sides so I can appreciate the intricacy of the “Kashmir Shawl” described in the book.

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More Information

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Rosie Thomas is the author of numerous celebrated novels including the bestsellers Sun at Midnight, Iris and Ruby, and Constance. A keen traveler, she has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas and traveled to Ladakh and Kashmir to research this novel.

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