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1954, the Malabar Coast. British and Anglo-Indian identities blur when an English-woman with a neglectful husband births a sickly baby. Cotton Mary, a hospital aide and moralizing Anglophile who claims her father was a British officer, takes over the infant's care and, without a word to the mother, takes the baby daily to her sister to nurse. Mary moves into the English household, taking over more and more duties as she plays on the mother's fatigue and lack of spousal counsel: in effect, Mary colonizes the English household while she pilfers its stores and tells tall tales to her own family. For how long can Mary sustain her rule before the Englishwoman stands on her own feet? Written by
Sensitive look at complexity of British colonialism
A sensitive look at the difficulties faced by a woman in colonial India, during the period when nationalism was starting to set in. The story opens with an India-born Englishwoman who goes into labour, is taken to the hospital, and gives birth to a sickly child. When it turns out that her milk doesn't come in, a nurse with mixed British/Indian heritage takes pity on her, finds a wet nurse, moves into her house, and begins to manipulate the situation to her own advantage.
As the story progresses, the husband's infidelity and disassociation is presented, as is the blindness of the wife, and the racist superiority of the expatriate British community. The Englishwoman's preteen daughter turns out to be the voice of reason who opens the woman's eyes to the situation as it is.
This is a slow-paced visually interesting story that focuses a great deal of attention on nurturing and nursing, and the complexity of a materially richer culture clashing and feeding on a materially poorer one.
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