K is for Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas

While cleaning her parental home after her father’s death, Mair Ellis chances upon a fine, gossamer shawl that ( as her sister tells her) belonged to their maternal grandmother, Nerys Watkins, who had spent her early married days in Kashmir with her husband Evan who was a Welsh Missionary.

Intrigued by a lock of hair, enclosed within the folds of the shawl, and also being at a loose end, Mair decides to travel to the Indian state of Kashmir to discover more about the shawl and hair and inversely about her own grandmother. Once in the troubled area, she encounters the Becker family: Karen, Bruno and their daughter Lotus, who too are tourists, visiting Kashmir from Switzerland. Mair finds herself attracted towards Bruno but before their relationship can mature, a terrible tragedy takes place which forces the Beckers to return to Europe even as Mair continues her investigations regarding the lock of hair.

The novel’s parallel track is regarding the young Nerys who arrives in Kashmir as a young bride even as war erupts all over Europe. With her husband, Evan, immersed in missionary work, distance grows between the two. In Srinagar, separated from Evan who is touring the interiors of the state, Nerys grows friendly with Caroline Bowen whose husband Ralph is away to the front, and Myrtle and Archie McMillan, who take care of her while she recovers from physical and emotional fatigue. And then Nerys meets a man called Rainer Stanim who is a magician. Nerys finds herself falling in love with Rainer but the British see him as a spy in their midst.

The problem with The Kashmir Shawl is that it is too reminiscent of Ruth Pawar Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust, where too a young British woman comes to India to trace the story of her ‘grandmother’ and finds herself falling in love with a married Indian man.

The novel began well but somewhere in the middle it lost its steam so that I just wished it to end to be done away with it.


First Line: Mair made the discovery on the last day at home in the old house.

Title: The Kashmir Shawl

Author: Rosie Thomas

Publication Details: London: Harper Collins, 2011

First Published: 2011

Pages: 468


Since it is a recent publication, the book is easily available. I borrowed it from a local library [823. T866K]


Submitted for the Mystery and Suspense Challenge

Also submitted for the following challenges: A-Z (Titles), AZRC, British Books, Chunkster, Find the Cover, New Authors, South Asian, Support Your Local Library.


Entry for letter K in the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme.

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