Sahib! What hast thou done? Thou hast slain the soul of the child-
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
in her time the female counterpart of
Rudyard Kipling, Alice Perrin, with her tales of Anglo-Indian life,
has unjustly fallen into oblivion. Praise then to Victorian
Secrets, a small imprint devoted to
unearthing forgotten nineteenth-century fiction, for making available
once again East of Suez,
Perrin’s first, very successful collection of short stories, which
originally appeared in print in 1901.
India during the British Raj, the tales address both private and
social themes with a clear view and a pristine narrative style.
Events of daily life, marital troubles and sometimes difficult
relationships between sahibs and native servants are described in a
lucid fashion and often imbued with supernatural aspects, making the
tales even more fascinating.
examples are Caulfield’s Crime,
one of Perrin’s most famous tales, where the theme of violence towards
the natives is developed with a touch of the supernatural by
portraying the ghost of a murdered Fakir seeking revenge, and The
Tiger-Charm an atmospheric, brief piece
where the supernatural bursts into a story of unhappy marriage and
the Next Room is a rather conventional
but effective story about a haunted house, while A
Man’s Theory is a portrait of
domestic problems turning, at the very end, into a horror story.
the insightful Benyon, of the Irrigation
Department the solitary life of a man
torn between love and friendship ends up in tragedy.
married your wife for what you could get with her, and now you
neglect her...As long as you have got all you want, what do you care
what danger she is in, what people say about her, what she does!”
Summoning of Arnold is an eerie tale of
love beyond the grave, while The Belief
of Bhagwan, Bearer is a vivid crime
story featuring a violent native abusing his wife, a faithful but
unwise servant and a good-hearted sahib.
native scrambled to his feet and hurried off into the darkness and
Leroy heard his large, loose shoes clattering towards the stables. He
heard them pass the house again about an hour later and caught the
flash of a lantern leaving the compound. After that he thought no
more of Bhagwan until the morning came, and with it the doctor’s
verdict that his wife would live.
the dark Chunia, Ayah
the crime of an Indian nursemaid keeps haunting her in the shape of a
me the best story in the volume is the
chilling and tragic The Biscobra,
endowed with an extremely quite horrific ending.
reaching the spot he saw that the cross was leaning down to one side,
and that a gaping hole had formed in the ground at its base. A sudden
rage seized him. Where was Beni, who had pretended to be so faithful
and who had promised to tend the grave?
volume is beautifully produced and bookended by a learned and
perceptive literary Introduction to Perrin’s work by editor
Melissa Edmunson Makala and by two
interesting appendices depicting the cultural context of the British
Raj as the historical frame of the author’s body of work.
|Mario Guslandi lives in Milan,
Italy. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews)
dark fiction in English, his book reviews have appeared in a number of
genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, The SF Site,
The Agony Column and Horrorwold.
find something to read: reviews
find something to read: interviews
find something to read: categories
find something to
Alice Perrin was born in India in 1867, the daughter of
Major General John Innes Robinson, of the Bengal Cavalry, and Bertha
Beidermann Robinson. After her education in England, Perrin married
Charles Perrin (d. 1931), an engineer in the India Public Works
Department, in 1886, and the couple returned to India for the next
sixteen years. Perrin’s career as a popular Anglo-Indian novelist
and short story writer began with the two-volume novel Into Temptation, published in 1894. Her first collection of short stories, East of Suez, appeared in 1901. She continued publishing novels every two to three years until her last novel, Other Sheep,
was published in 1932, two years before her death in Vevey,
Switzerland, in 1934. In total, she published seventeen novels, many of
which focus on the British colonial experience in India, such as The Spell of the Jungle (1902), The Anglo-Indians (1912), The Happy Hunting Ground (1914), Star of India (1919), and Government House (1925).