New McNeill book brings the magic of 1960s India to life

Elizabeth McNeill's new book 'East of Aden'.
Elizabeth McNeill's new book 'East of Aden'.

it is said that “going past Aden had a tremendous effect on European women ... they were never the same again”.

Newstead author Elisabeth McNeill, in her latest novel East of Aden, brings to life the excitement of India through the tale of three young ladies who arrive in Bombay in the early 1960s at the start of their married lives.

The Three Jays, as they are called – Jess, Joan and Jackie – all come from very different backgrounds. Joan is a rich American, and Jess and Jackie are from the UK.

How would they cope with the climate and a very different lifestyle? Three more diverse characters would be hard to find.

They each deal with their problems in their own way, yet through circumstances their lives are intertwined in a most entertaining and totally absorbing fashion.

McNeill draws a vivid picture of everyday life in the heat and dirt of the city, the interactions between the servants and street boys with the western families, and cleverly compares it with the bungalow in the hills where the air is like champagne.

The activities of the large ex-pat community are centred round the goings on at the gym and in the Ruby Club, but it would appear that the normal rules of western behaviour for women and men have been left behind when they came east of Aden.

The most unlikely liaisons take place resulting in friction and some very strange activities, but when the chips are really down everyone rallies round.

This is a book that keeps the reader’s interest from the beginning and all the characters are very plausible. The ending is unexpected and leaves the door wide open for a sequel.

East of Aden is the 28th novel written by Elisabeth McNeill and is published by Robert Hale at £18.99. – IK