In Shakespeare's "Troilus & Cressida", 'Cressida's bed' is India and his heroine, 'a pearl'. Desmond Barry's new novel opens in Bombay in 1931 where Dr Christina Devenish, Suffragist and Theosophist, is running a birth control clinic. When the clinic is burnt down in an independence riot, she receives an invitation from her father, Colonel Devenish, to visit him in Bhutan, where he is an advisor at the court of the Shabdrung, Bhutan's version of the Dalai Lama. Arriving in Calcutta, Christina is conscripted into a British expedition to Bhutan to be led by Major Owen Davies, a tough British Political Officer. Davies has the covert brief to resolve, even by 'drastic action', the rivalry between the Shabdrung and the Maharaja, Bhutan's temporal ruler, which is destabilizing the border with Tibet and China. Christina's father is deeply embroiled in the Great Game: and for Davies, he's on the wrong side.As Christina and Owen Davies journey toward the Himalayas, they begin a hungry love affair, knowing that other loyalties will soon intrude; and when Christina meets the Shabdrung, the young god-king, his effect on her is stunning.
Barry's consummate storytelling brings to life these unforgettable characters and the labyrinthine and deadly intrigues of the Raj in this strangely magical and medieval kingdom. The final act is played out in Calcutta, and the consequences are devastating.
Desmond Barry was born and brought up in Wales. He works in Tibet during the summer and is presently an External Fellow at Glamorgan University. He is the author of two previous novels, The Chivalry of Crime and A Bloody Good Friday.