A Quickie with Dinah Jefferies

Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?

‘Before The Rains’ is a spicy simmering love story with an edge, set in the blistering heat and turmoil of 1930s Rajasthan in India. It’s the land of Princes and palaces surrounded by the raw beauty of the desert. You might like to read it if you’re tempted by an exciting, dangerous world, where East meets West, where cultures clash and old practices can be cruel – especially where widows are concerned. My main character Eliza is a British widow who has comes to India to photograph the Royal family in the Princely state of Juraipore. There she meets British educated Jay, younger brother of the Maharajah. This is an intensely romantic story of forbidden love where there are insurmountable obstacles to mixed marriage and strict rules of conduct on both sides. As the relationship between Eliza and Jay develops long hidden secrets surface, and Eliza must make a difficult choice.

If someone was to write your life story what would the title be?

It would have to be something like: BORN IN THE TROPICS because my childhood in Malaya has been the inspiration for all my novels so far. Or maybe I’M STILL STANDING, because I’ve been through the mill, especially when my teenage son was killed in a motor bike accident.

What’s the strangest fan question or request you’ve received?

I haven’t had strange requests. People mainly tell me about their lives, or ask if I might write a few words for their book groups. I also get emails pointing out where I’ve got a small historic detail wrong. I try my best to be as authentic as possible but sometimes slip up. I think it’s an inevitable aspect of the job.

If you could co-write with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be?

Jane Austen because her wit and humour are wonderfully inspiring. I feel as if she would be a great teacher.

Tell me something nobody else knows about you (yet!).

Not on your life! Though very few people know that when I was a teenager my mum used to iron my very curly hair straight – on an ironing board with an actual iron. Straighteners hadn’t been invented then.

Finally please recommend 3 books that you have recently read and tell me why you’ve chosen these.

Tana French, ‘The Trespasser’– a fantastic absorbing read crime and detection novel, and not the kind of book I normally read, but I was gripped from start to finish.

Julia Gregson, ‘Monsoon Summer’ – set in India just after partition. This is a terrific read about a British midwife married to an Indian man, and it explores all the difficulties she faces. A highly believable story that made me feel as if I was there.

Emma Donoghue, ‘The Wonder’ – because it is just so AMAZING. I really loved it and it opened my eyes so much to the role of religion in Ireland in times gone by.

Who is Dinah Jefferies: Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her debut novel, The Separation.

Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and their Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off with her grandchildren.

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