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Deeper Than Indigo: Tracing Thomas Machell, Forgotten Explorer

'One of the most remarkable books I have ever read' A N Wilson

'Mingling fact and fiction was too much for some publishers. This is not a good enough reason for declining such a wonderful book.' Stuart Jeffries - The Guardian

'… there are coincidences in this beautifully written, cleverly structured book which seem to crack open the very nature of life itself.' Victoria Finlay - The Independent

'... the story she uncovers [is] a valuable addition to our understanding of a time marked by intellectual questioning as well as colonial certainties.' James Attlee - The Independent

'An incredible tale… given a magical extra dimension by [an] affection that spans more than a century.' Hannah Finch, Western Morning News

This intriguing odyssey, set on the edges of time, encompasses biography, memoir, detective story, travelogue, history and an enthralling love story. The author tracks Thomas, an elusive young man of the past, to the China Seas, remote islands of Polynesia, India's plantation lands in the days of the British Raj, and deserts of Arabia. Finding she is often in her own footsteps too, can she span what seems an unbridgeable gap between the known and the unknown?

The author's quest begins when the word 'indigo' draws her to the illustrated journals, now in the British Library, of Victorian explorer Thomas Machell. She finds her life to have striking echoes of his, not least travels to and within India, a career in indigo, and a passion for journal writing. She is also intrigued by his aspiration to write 'a novel in the form of an autobiography' and by his quirky watercolour sketches.

Machell of Crackenthorpe, born in 1824, first demonstrated his yearning for adventure when only twelve, and at sixteen left the family rectory to follow his dream of travelling to the East.

By chance, he witnessed many important historical events, including the infamous 'First Opium War' and the 'Indian Mutiny'. He spent most of his adult life in India; the author follows him to indigo plantations of rural Bengal and Bangladesh, to coffee estates in Kerala's Malabar Hills, to unexplored regions of central India and to the city of Calcutta.

Machell also travelled up the Indus River to Kashmir and the North-West Frontier and undertook an intrepid sea voyage with Muslim merchants. When the author voyages aboard the last freighter to take passengers from UK to India, she faces the same threat of pirate attack in the Red Sea as Machell. She also follows in his wake by cargo ship to the most remote Polynesian islands, setting for his passionate love affair, and she seeks his colourful descendants in the New World.

This remarkable tale of East-West connections brings to life the untold story of a spirited outsider at the height of the British Raj. Serendipity, intuition and an enchanting relationship, as well as the author's quest to uncover the missing years of Machell's life, give this book its magical extra dimension.

Jenny Balfour Paul, writer, artist, intrepid traveller and international lecturer, travelled overland to India, returning by sea, before graduating from York University. Author of two books on indigo and numerous other writings, she was consultant curator for the Whitworth Art Gallery's touring exhibition 'Indigo, a Blue to Dye For' , and consultant for two documentary films. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Exeter University; a Fellow of London s Royal Geographical Society and Royal Asiatic Society and New York's Explorers Club; and President of the Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. She is a involved in research into dyes recovered from shipwrecks, is a partner in 'Silk Road Connect', an educational initiative launched by cellist Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Project in New York in 2009, and promotes revivals of natural dyes worldwide.

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