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Begums, Thugs and White Mughal

Fanny Parkes, who lived in India between 1822 and 1846, was the ideal travel writer - courageous, indefatigably curious and determinedly independent. Her delightful journal traces her journey from prim memsahib, married to a minor civil servant of the Raj, to eccentric, sitar-playing Indophile, fluent in Urdu, critical of British rule and passionate in her appreciation of Indian culture. Fanny is fascinated by everything, from the trial of the thugs and the efficacy of opium on headaches to the adorning of a Hindu bride. To read her is to get as close as one can to a true picture of early colonial India - the sacred and the profane, the violent and the beautiful, the straight-laced sahibs and the more eccentric "White Mughals" who fell in love with India and did their best, like Fanny, to build bridges across cultures.

Fanny Parks (1794-1875) went to India in 1822 and spent the next 24 years travelling the country. She was the daughter of an army officer in India and the wife of a civil servant stationed at Allahabad. William Dalrymple is the multi-award winning author of In Xanadu, City of Djinns and From the Holy Mountain, and Britain's most successful contemporary travel writer. He was born in Scotland, but now divides his time between London and Delhi.

Reviews:

'Her beautifully descriptive journals provide a remarkable insight into this crossroads in Anglo-Indian history.' - Sunday Telegraph, December 29, 2002

'The pleasures of this funny, lovable, slightly absurd book lie in her inexhaustible interest in India, and an enthusiasm which never fails.' - Daily Telegraph, December 28, 2002

'These journals, period documents though they are, have an impressively contemporary sensibility.' - Sunday Times, January 5, 2002

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