In 1939, young Joan Falkiner’s spirited flight from South Yarra to princely India and her marriage to the Muslim ruler of a small state in Gujarat sent shockwaves through Melbourne society. News of their union quickly spread throughout the Raj and – as the kingdoms were about to disappear forever in the maelstrom of Indian Independence – went as high as the British throne.
How did it all come about? Through conversations in Melbourne, Mumbai and the South of France, research in the India Office Library in London, and her own observations while travelling in modern India, Suzanne Falkiner traces the course of a most unusual love story.
Praise for Joan in India
‘The typical fairytale of marrying a prince comes to life in this biography of an Australian girl who leaves her family … to marry a Muslim ruler … in India … Through part travelogue, Falkiner traces the feelings of Joan upon arriving … to wed a man 36 years her senior. Falkiner’s descriptions … are insightful and conjure up the very essence of being on the streets of India. The documentation of the Independence period … is brilliant and the reader gets a real grasp of how things were at the time.’ FOUR STARS **** – BOOKSELLER + PUBLISHER MAGAZINE
‘An impressive writerly achievement. One of the marvellous things about the book is the deft characterisation of the interviewees — various Falkiner matrons and matriarchs among them – as well as the wryly humorous self-dramatisation of herself as the biographical detective, quietly displaying the author’s skills as novelist and journalist.’ – Nicholas Jose
‘Deftly combining the skills of an archaeologist with those of a historian, Falkiner goes from one corner of the world to another, to excavate the love story of Joan and the Nawab of Palanpur. The breadth is aptly captured in the titles of the different parts comprising the book: Bombay, Palanpur, London, The South of France … Thus history, romance, and travelogue blend, to add a rich, hard-to-define flavour to the narrative, making it difficult for the reader to lay the book aside until finished.’ – Md Rezaul Hague, Transnational Literature, Vol 5, Issue 1, Flinders University, Adelaide
‘In her childhood, Suzanne Falkiner heard tales of a cousin called Joan who married a prince from India. As an adult, she decided to find ‘what in actuality might lie in the gap between the happy-ever-after and the faraway kingdom and the real life as it was lived out’ … As an historian of India, I can say that Falkiner has uncovered a great deal of information that has never been published, and is not generally known even by scholars working in the field.’ – John McLeod, University of Louisville
‘… both a fascinating narrative of travels around Australia and to India, Britain and France in search of people who knew Joan … and an intimate biography … Suzanne Falkiner was remarkably tenacious in tracking down individuals on three continents who did not provide many clues as to their whereabouts. She embodies the historian as detective who … is not deterred by difficult travelling conditions, unpleasant weather, recalcitrant witnesses or dead ends … Her work is an impressive contribution to the ongoing examination of the role of memory in the writing of the histories of individuals and events.’ – Barbara N. Ramusack, University of Cincinnati
‘While writing about her cousin, Falkiner makes the last few years of the Raj come alive and reverberate. Joan in India is one of those rare books you chance upon that make you glad someone wrote them.’ – Swati Daftuar, The Hindu Times