Excerpt from The Seduction of Silence by Bem Le Hunte, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Seduction of Silence

by Bem Le Hunte

The Seduction of Silence by Bem Le Hunte X
The Seduction of Silence by Bem Le Hunte
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2003, 416 pages
    Mar 2004, 416 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Jyoti Ma hated the way that Hukam-Singh the cook would always take instructions from Aakash, but feigned deafness whenever she commanded the dishes of the day. Yet Hukam-Singh's wife Deepika could call him from the other side of the house and he would always hear her. Why? And why did the cook and sweeper prefer to spend time together instead of attending to her needs?

She felt isolated being away from her family with a new husband in the middle of the Himalayas. And she hated the servants for feeling so at home in the hills. For feeling more at home in her house, with her husband, than she did. The servants could have helped her melt the snows, but her breeding dictated that she preserve all the boundaries between her class and theirs.

Jyoti Ma claimed her space by pushing away the people who served her, to the point where she hated them and resented their service. Even Govinda the mahout was divested of respect and tolerated only at the far end of the verandah. She started blaming the servants for her unhappiness and at every opportunity she would grumble to her new husband about the headaches they were all causing her.

In her anxiety to justify her authority over the servants she even found herself laying traps. Sometimes she would count out the amount of mithai in her cupboard so that she would know when some had been stolen. Almost eager for it to disappear. Then she would carefully empty packets of dust and soil in the kitchen cupboards just so that she could take up Hukam-Singh on the disgusting state of his kitchen.

The servants were no longer allowed to eat all the food they required. Only one dhal, roti and subjee was left for them, because that was all they deserved. Occasionally, when a piece of fruit was only minutes away from complete deterioration, she would donate it to the kitchen with great generosity and tell the servants to share it amongst themselves.

When she took over the accounts of the farm there wasn't a single minor corruption that was overlooked. Every poor farmhand's attempt to wangle a few extra paise out of the roaring profits of Prakriti was severed, like a hand chopped off for its crime. And with these extra savings, Jyoti Ma began her series of infamous shopping trips to Delhi, which were the talk of all the locals.

As a lady of means she invested the profits of Prakriti shrewdly in ornate sets of gold, diamond, ruby and emerald jewelery from every part of India. Then there were the Kanchipuram and Banarsi saris, threaded with heavy gold weave. When the first automobiles arrived in India she shocked everyone by announcing that she had bought one at the cost of three thousand rupees. "How could that be?" the other landowners pondered. "You can build a grand house for that much money."

Her next task was to dispose of the old servants altogether. If she could install a new batch, then none of them would ever question who held the scepter in the house.

Her opportunity came one day when Deepika was sweeping the floors and her back crumpled from the stress of having to watch every move she made around her new mistress. Jyoti Ma continued sipping her tea, rang her little metal bell, and called for her cook to come and carry away his crumpled-up wife.

"Aakash, these servants are absolutely useless. She's a jellyfish! Not made to work. No backbone. We must get rid of the pair of them."

The replacement cook was a villager from Uttar Pradesh who had left behind his new wife after just three days of marriage to go and work so that he could keep her. In place of his wife, the woman in his life became Jyoti Ma - a stern partner and exacting employer. The new sweeper was almost too old to work, but servants were hard to come by even in those days, especially as word had traveled about memsahib's treatment of her household workers. He had a few years of life left in him, though, and Jyoti Ma knew she could make him work for them.

This is a complete excerpt of Chapter 1 from The Seduction of Silence by Bem Le Hunte. Copyright 2003 Bem Le Hunte. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, HarperCollins Publishers.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Eat the Apple
    Eat the Apple
    by Matt Young
    Truth is stranger than fiction. Matt Young's memoir tackles the space in between truth and ...
  • Book Jacket: Educated
    by Tara Westover
    Tara Westover had the kind of upbringing most of us can only imagine. She was the youngest of seven ...
  • Book Jacket: The Girls in the Picture
    The Girls in the Picture
    by Melanie Benjamin
    Melanie Benjamin's fine historical novel about the relationship between two women in the early ...
  • Book Jacket: The Driest Season
    The Driest Season
    by Meghan Kenny
    On a summer afternoon in 1943, an almost sixteen-year-old Cielle Jacobson walks into the family barn...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano

    A charming, bighearted novel starring Auntie Poldi, Sicily's newest amateur sleuth.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Y L D W D, Y'll G U W Fleas

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.