Kaye, M.M. 1908–2004
Kaye, M.M. 1908–2004
(Mollie Hamilton, Mary Margaret Kaye, Mollie Kaye)
PERSONAL: Born August 21, 1908, in Simla, India; died January 29, 2004, in Lavenham, England; married Godfrey John Hamilton (an army officer), 1942 (died, 1985); children: Carolyn. Education: Attended schools in England.
CAREER: Writer and painter.
MEMBER: Royal Society of London (fellow).
Trade Wind, Coward, McCann (New York, NY), 1963, revised edition, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1981.
The Far Pavilions, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1978.
Six Bars at Seven, Hutchinson (London, England), 1940.
Death Walked in Kashmir, Staples Press (London, England), 1953, published as Death in Kashmir, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1984.
Death Walked in Berlin, Staples Press (London, England), 1955, published as Death in Berlin, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.
Death Walked in Cyprus, Staples Press (London, England), 1956, published as Death in Cyprus, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1984.
Later Than You Think, Longman (London, England), 1958, published under pseudonym Mollie Hamilton, Coward, McCann (New York, NY), 1959, published as It's Later Than You Think, World (Manchester, England), 1960, published as Death in Kenya, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.
House of Shade, Coward, McCann (New York, NY), 1959, published as Death in Zanzibar, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.
Night on the Island, Longman (London, England), 1960, published as Death in the Andamans, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985.
Three Complete Novels (contains Death in Kenya, Death in Zanzibar, and Death in Cyprus), Wings Books (New York, NY), 1994.
CHILDREN'S BOOKS; UNDER PSEUDONYM MOLLIE KAYE
(And illustrator) The Animals' Vacation, New York Graphic Society (New York, NY), 1964.
(And illustrator) The Ordinary Princess, Kestrel (London, England), 1980, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984.
Thistledown, Quartet (London, England), 1982.
Also author of "Potter Pinner" series, including Potter Pinner Meadow, illustrated by Margaret Tempest, Black Bramble Wood, Willow Witches Brook, and Gold Gorse Common,) Collins (London, England), 1937–1945.
(Illustrator and adaptor) The Far Pavilions Picture Book, Bantam (New York, NY), 1979.
(Editor) Emily Bayley and Thomas Metcalf, The Golden Calm: An English Lady's Life in Moghul Delhi, Viking (New York, NY), 1980.
(Editor) Rudyard Kipling, Moon of Other Days: M.M. Kaye's Kipling: Favourite Verses, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1988, Salem House (Scranton, PA), 1989.
(Editor and author of foreword) Rudyard Kipling, Picking Up Gold and Silver: Stories, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989, published as Picking Up Gold and Silver: A Selection of Kipling's Short Stories, Macmillan (London, England), 1989.
(Author of foreword) Rudyard Kipling, The Complete Verse, Kyle Cathie (London, England), 1990.
The Sun in the Morning: My Early Years in India and England, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Golden Afternoon (autobiography), Viking (London, England), 1997, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Enchanted Evening (autobiography), Viking (New York, NY), 1999.
Also author of Strange Island, published by Thacker. Author of radio play England Wakes, 1941.
ADAPTATIONS: The Far Pavilions was produced as a miniseries by Home Box Office in 1984.
SIDELIGHTS: In 1978 British writer M.M. Kaye made publishing history with her novel The Far Pavilions, an historical romance set in nineteenth-century India. Previously a successful author of children's books and mysteries, Kaye set these genres aside to concentrate on this historical romance novel, and after fourteen years and a grueling battle against cancer, she finished the book, which has since been compared to Gone with the Wind and other classics of the genre. The book ultimately sold over fifteen million copies in sixteen languages and was adapted for a series of television films.
The Far Pavilions gives readers a detailed look at life in colonial India. It is a subject on which Kaye was well qualified to write, for she was born in Simla, India, into a British family that had already lived in that country for two generations. Although she was educated in England, Kaye returned to India after her schooling and married a British army officer. While she was thus a part of the ruling class in colonial India, Kaye was especially praised for creating an even-handed portrayal of both the native Indians and the English colonists. Brigitte Weeks wrote in the Washington Post Book World that The Far Pavilions is so powerful, its "read-ers … cannot ever feel quite the same about either the Indian subcontinent or the decrepit history of the British Empire."
The Far Pavilions has been compared to, among other books, Rudyard Kipling's Kim. Like Kipling's novel, Kaye's book features a young British boy, Ash, who is orphaned, then raised as an Indian and a Hindu. Ash is sent to live with aristocratic relatives in England when his parentage is finally revealed. Later, he returns to India as a soldier and finds himself torn between his two heritages. While some critics dismiss Kaye's plot as standard romantic-adventure fare, others praise her for skillfully combining Ash's adventures with an accurate historical account of the events between the Indian Mutiny and the Second Afghan War. Furthermore, emphasized Spectator contributor Francis King, Kaye possessed a "gift for narrative"; he found The Far Pavilions "absorbing" in spite of its more than nine hundred pages. A New Yorker writer concurred that Kaye was "a topnotch storyteller and historian," proving these skills in The Far Pavillions as she "holds the reader in thrall."
Most critics have pointed to Kaye's comprehensive vision of nineteenth-century India as the key to her novel's success. As Times Literary Supplement reviewer Theon Wilkinson explained: Kaye "writes with the conviction that events must be told in their fullness or not at all, that ever[y] facet of information touching the characters must be embraced; and The Far Pavilions is a great oriental pot-pourri from which nothing is left out: Indian lullabies; regimental bawdy songs; regimental history, wars and campaigns; weddings; funerals; poisonous plants—a tribute to much painstaking research, some drawn from original diaries and journals…. The length of the book is a challenge but the effort is rewarded." And Rahul Singh wrote in Punch, "There is none of the romantic sentimentality that saw India as a country of snake charmers and be-jewelled princes, with the faithful Gunga Din thrown in. Nor the view of it as one vast, multiplying, putrefying sewer for which there was no possible hope. Ms. Kaye sees India as many Indians do, and for this one must applaud her."
Before publishing The Far Pavilions, Kaye had written two other books that are similar in theme. Shadow of the Moon dramatizes the events of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 through the story of an orphaned Anglo-Spanish heiress sent to India to marry a man she does not know but to whom she has been betrothed since childhood. Trade Wind is set in Zanzibar instead of India, but like Shadow of the Moon and The Far Pavilions, it examines two cultures in conflict while telling the exciting story of a young abolitionist from Massachusetts who is kidnaped by a handsome slave trader when she travels to Zanzibar. Neither book was particularly successful when first published, but when reissued after the publication of The Far Pavilions, both Shadow of the Moon and Trade Wind became best-sellers. Like The Far Pavilions, they have been praised for their fine descriptions of exotic settings.
Reviewing Shadow of the Moon for the New York Herald Tribune, David Tilden stated that the book is "filled with excitement and suspense, but the story of India itself will have even greater fascination for many readers [because] … Kaye pictures its welter of races, religions, ideals and superstitions; its fragrances and stench, beauty and horror." While also praising Kaye's portrait of India and its history, Nicholas Shrimpton in the New Statesman found some of the novelist's characterizations wanting, particularly with regard to the hero of the book, Alex Winter. According to Shrimpton: "When his [Alex's] mighty brain isn't predicting the next hundred years of Indian history, his mighty body is wrestling with sharks or saving the Raj single-handed. If you can tolerate a bionic tailor's dummy for a hero, however, the local colour is terrific." In marked contrast, Walter Shapiro, reviewing Trade Wind for the Washington Post Book World, had no problem with Kaye's characterizations, or anything else about the book. While granting that its story line might seem conventional, he felt that Trade Wind "transcends such easy labels as romance or exotic historical novel. It is a sophisticated treat for those traditional readers who favor good writing, subtle character development, clever plotting and a slightly ironic narrative tone."
Assessing The Far Pavilions, Shadow of the Moon, and Trade Wind for Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, Pamela Cleaver stated: "All three books are long and move at a stately pace … descriptions are graphic and lyrical, the characters lively and well drawn … the final outcome of these romances is predictable, the twists and turns of the plot are not. The writing is of a high quality and the books are extremely enjoyable." Cleaver further advised recommended the books for readers who "want to be immersed in the sights, sounds, and scents of the gorgeous East, to understand the thoughts of mid-Victorian men and women, [and] to enjoy lush, melodramatic romance against a background of authentic history."
Though overshadowed by the success of her historical fiction, Kaye's mystery novels comprised a significant portion of her creative output. Overall critical response to her mysteries in large part paralleled the response to her historicals: universal acclaim for the physical and social environments she crafted, and a more mixed response with regard to her plots and characterizations. Later Than You Think—published in the United States as Death in Kenya—takes place in Kenya shortly after the Mau-Mau uprising. Anthony Boucher, writing in the New York Times, described the novel as "a perfectly conventional whodunit of the feminine persuasion … redeemed by its setting." Likewise, a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement felt that Kaye's imagination in the book was more taken with the "Kenya scene and the love-interest … than … the detective-work necessitated by the plot." Reviewing House of Shade—released in the United States as Death in Zanzibar—for the Spectator, Christopher Pym echoed such sentiments. He described the book as a "long, and long-drawn-out murder story distinguished by its Zanzibar setting … with some of the appeal of a good travel brochure."
Kaye also enjoyed considerable success with the three-part publication of her memoirs. The Sun in the Morning: My Early Years in India and England was published in 1990, followed by Golden Afternoon in 1997, and Enchanted Evening in 1999. Several reviewers cautioned that Kaye's memoirs are hardly a representative picture of life in India during the Raj. Her story is highly personal and she does not reflect on the political issues of the day. A Contemporary Review writer called The Sun in the Morning "a pleasant tale of an India that never was—except as an elderly lady recalls a privileged childhood, and as the passing of the years dims all discordant notes…. Kaye can—though rarely—add a touch of acid. But for the most part this is 'roses everywhere,' a tale of sugar and spice and all things sweet-scented." Publishers Weekly reviewer Genevieve Stuttaford concurred that The Sun in the Morning is "written with gushing, romantic enthusiasm," but nonetheless found much to recommend the "kaleidoscopic story of a long-lost innocence just before and after World War I." Kaye's glowing memories of India stand in sharp contrast to the grim picture she paints of her exile to England. The Sun in the Morning ends with the family anticipating a return to India. Kaye's young adult years there are related in Golden Afternoon, which also details the Kaye's sojourn in China. Raleigh Trevelyan, a writer for the Times Literary Supplement, advised that "the book ends with a promise to return to her beloved India: the subject, one hopes, of volume three of these memoirs."
Kaye's promise was kept with Enchanted Evening, which takes up her story in 1932 when Kaye was in her early twenties, and ends with her engagement in the 1940s. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, felt that while it might help to read the first two volumes of Kaye's autobiography before taking on this third title, it was not essential. "Kaye is such a good storyteller," Pitt wrote, "and her memories are so rich in detail, that the individual volumes of her saga can stand on their own." Library Journal's Carol A. McAllister also had praise for this third installation of memoir, noting that Kaye's "affection for India is apparent in her lush, detailed descriptions of the country's natural beauty." And a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, while conceding that Kaye's memories of British imperialism "often seem remote, decadent, and even unjust," also found that "readers who enjoy tales about the halcyon days of the British Empire will be charmed." Kaye died in England in 2004 at the age of ninety-five. At the time of her death, she was busy collaborating on a musical adaptation of one of her novels.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 28, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1984.
Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Booklist, December 15, 2000, David Pitt, review of Enchanted Evening, p. 780.
Chapter One, May-June, 1979.
Christian Science Monitor, November 13, 1978.
Contemporary Review, February, 1991, review of The Sun in the Morning: My Early Years in India and England, p. 112.
Cosmopolitan, December,1 980, Jane Clapperton, review of The Golden Calm: An English Lady's Life in Moghul Delhi, p. 20; August, 1981, Jane Clapperton, review of Trade Wind, p. 24; June, 1984, Carol E. Rinzler, review of Death in Cyprus, p. 54.
Detroit News, October 7, 1979.
Economist, December 26, 1981, review of Thistledown, p. 106.
Horn Book, November, 1984, Nancy C. Hammond, review of The Ordinary Princess, p. 758.
Library Journal, June 15, 1981, review of Trade Wind, p. 1322; April 1, 1983, review of Death in Zanzibar, p. 761; October 1, 1990, V. Louise Saylor, review of The Sun in the Morning, p. 96; May 15, 1991, Jeffrey R. Luttrell, review of Rudyard Kipling: The Complete Verse, p. 83; December, 2000, Carol A. McAllister, review of Enchanted Evening, p. 132.
Los Angeles Magazine, September, 1981, Mark Wheeler, review of Trade Wind, p. 259.
Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1980; October 9 1984; May 23, 1986.
Maclean's, September 24, 1979.
National Review, May 16, 1980, Christina Steadman, review of Shadow of the Moon, p. 616.
New Statesman, October 1, 1979; October 12, 1979; November 14, 1980, Rosemary Stones, review of The Ordinary Princess, p. 20.
Newsweek, September 11, 1978.
New York, April 23, 1984, John Leonard, review of The Far Pavilions, p. 91.
New Yorker, October 9, 1978; September 24, 1979; March 2, 1981, review of The Golden Calm, p. 126; July 27, 1981, review of Trade Wind, p. 86.
New York Herald Tribune Book Review, September 1, 1957; September 20, 1959.
New York Times, October 26, 1958, p. 57; December 3, 1978; March 25, 1979.
New York Times Book Review, November 18, 1979; August 31, 1980, review of Shadow of the Moon, p. 19; March 4, 1984, review of Death in Zanzibar, p. 34; December 16, 1984, Richard Smith, review of Death in Kashmir, p. 26; August 25, 1985, Miriam Berkley, review of Death in Berlin, p. 16; August 17, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Sun in the Morning, p. 57; September 30, 1990, Geoffrey C. Ward, review of The Sun in the Morning, p. 14.
Parents' Magazine, November, 1984, Alice Siegel, review of The Ordinary Princess, p. 56.
People, November 20, 1978; May 16, 1983, review of Death in Zanzibar, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, June 25, 1979; August 15, 1980, review of The Golden Calm, p. 49; May 8, 1981, Barbara A. Bannon, review of Trade Wind, p. 249; June 3, 1983, review of Death in Kenya, p. 64; August 3, 1984, review of Death in Kashmir, p. 55; April 26, 1985, Sybil Steinberg, review of Death in Berlin, p. 69; April 4, 1986, Sybil Steinberg, review of Death in the Andamans, p. 52; August 17, 1990, review of The Sun in the Morning, p. 57; October 25, 1999, p. 55; November 27, 2000, review of Enchanted Evening, p. 66.
Punch, November 14, 1979, Rahul Singh, review of The Far Pavilions.
School Library Journal, March, 1985, Linda Amers-Boman, review of The Ordinary Princess, p. 168.
Sewanee Review, summer, 1980.
Spectator, April 12, 1957; July 24, 1959, p. 118; September 9, 1978, Francis King, review of The Far Pavilions.
Teen, December, 1980, Linda E. Watson, review of Shadow of the Moon, p. 45.
Time, April 16, 1984, Richard Stengel, review of The Far Pavilions, p. 70.
Times Literary Supplement (London, England), April 19, 1957; August 22, 1958, p. 469; September 22, 1978, November 21, 1980; March 26, 1982; December 19, 1997, Raleigh Trevelyan, review of Golden Afternoon, p. 23.
Washington Post, September 11, 1979; April 21, 1984.
Washington Post Book World, September 10, 1978; July 12, 1981, Walter Shapiro, review of Trade Wind; November 11, 1984.
Europe Intelligence Wire, February 6, 2004.
Guardian, February 4, 2004, p. 25.
Independent, February 5, 2004, p. 18.
Time (London, England), February 16, 2004, p. 23.