Image: Collage of 'Governor's Lover' (Amazon) and Mount Lavinia Beach in Sri Lanka. (CC BY-SA 3.0) - Photo: 2022

The Governor’s Lover: A Book Review

By Rodney Reynolds

NEW YORK (IDN) — It is 1805, and the new Governor of the Crown Colony of Ceylon has just arrived to take up his post in the country. The Kandyan War continues unabated in the hill country and the local half-Sinhalese, half-Portuguese beauty, Lovinia, experiences the impact of these events on her blossoming life.

Imagine being transported to Colonial Ceylon and guided on a journey of love, lust, and intrigue over 200 hundred years ago. This is exactly what author Roderic Grigson achieves with his evocative descriptions in his fourth novel, “The Governor’s Lover”.

Grigson tells the story of the forming relationship between Lovinia, the lead dancer in her father’s dance troupe, and the newly arrived Governor, Sir Thomas Maitland. A relationship that has the power to change her fortune and that of her father and family, whom she loves dearly. She is torn between two very different lives and must choose to follow her heart or her head.

History provides stories that must be kept alive to understand how different cultures developed and grew. I was quickly lost in the beauty, enchantment, and mystery of Lovinia and this time and place in history.

By the end of the first chapter, drawn to her mystique and left with a desire to know more about her story—past, present, and future, I could not put the book down.

So important is this story to Sri Lanka’s recent history that the town of Galkissa, where their clandestine relationship took place, was renamed Mount Lavinia in honour of the female protagonist in the narrative.

The mansion built for the Governor as his country retreat went on to be the well-known Mount Lavinia Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Asia.

However, while history offers us this fascinating basic narrative, it leaves us with little else. Was this another love story, or was there much more to this dalliance?

The well-researched novel combines historical facts with spell-binding fiction, and you have a real page-turner. It immerses the reader into life in Ceylon during the early 1800s, painting a vivid picture of the opulent colonial lifestyle enjoyed by the ruling British class against a backdrop of poverty, anger and resentment among the locals who have lost their country to the European invaders.

So well presented are the areas in question that they force the reader to see the country in a new way and appreciate the historical significance of these neighbourhoods.

Surrounding the two main protagonists is a cast of equally intriguing characters who are each worthy of a story. They help to provide depth and texture and give the reader a real appreciation for life during those times.

The author’s experience growing up in Ceylon and his knowledge of the country have allowed him to put the reader right in the middle of the events in the story. His effortless writing style, carried through this novel and all his previous novels, creates a sense of excitement through its unexpected twists and turns.

More importantly, through the characters’ lives, the book presents the internal conflict and conviction that we all encounter, showing us that nothing is as simple as “just a love story”.

A fascinating read.

The book is available for purchase on Amazon: [IDN-InDepthNews — 16 December 2022]

Image: Collage of ‘Governor’s Lover’ (Amazon) and Mount Lavinia Beach in Sri Lanka. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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