This Rumer Godden novel was a pleasant surprise. The title grabbed me—how could I not be intrigued, even if India is not my favorite setting? But the real surprise is that this is a sort of companion novel to Coromandel Sea Change, which I briefly reviewed here. In the end notes to Cromartie Godden explains that as she was writing CSC, a newspaper article inspired a second plot idea, which could not be blended or reconciled with her original plot. This second idea then was retired only to be revived several years later upon a return to India. The newspaper article contains the germ of the plot: a statue of the God Shiva being sold by a Canadian art dealer is contested in a lawsuit, to which through many complicated twists and turns of the law the god Shiva becomes a party.
Cromartie returns to the Coromandel coast and Patna Hall many years after the events of CSC and many of the supporting characters are familiar faces. The hero of the novel is a British barrister who spent a part of his boyhood in India and is eager to go back.He finds himself emotionally drawn to the country and to a young tour guide and, of course, those emotions begin to cloud his pursuit of the case.
I think Godden’s decision to stick with her original plot was a wise one. That novel is much stronger. But this story has its own merits, and it is interesting to see how the two plots echo each other in mood if not in details.