20 August 2015

Review #302: A House Called Askival by Merryn Glover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“A man's daughter is his heart. Just with feet, walking out in the world.”

---- Mat Johnson, an American author

Merryn Glover, a debut author, pens her extraordinary book, A House Called Askival, that tells two stories of a father and a daughter in two different timelines that run parallel like the beautiful hills in Mussoorie- a hill station in India, where the story is set. This heart-touching story provides a stunning outlook as well as the most remarkable view on my very own country and it's enriching history.


James Connor is a man who, burdened with guilt following a tragic event in his youth, has dedicated his life to serving India. Ruth Connor is his estranged daughter who, as a teenager, always knew she came second to her parents' missionary vocation and rebelled, with equally tragic consequences. After 24 years away, Ruth finally returns to Askival, the family home in Mussoorie, a remote hill station in the Northern State of Uttarakhand, to tend to her dying father. There she must face the past and confront her own burden of guilt if she is to cross the chasm that has grown between them. In this extraordinary and assured debut, Merryn Glover draws on her own upbringing as a child of missionary parents in Uttarakhand to create a sensitive, complex, and epic journey through the sights, sounds, and often violent history of India from Partition to the present day.

James and Ruth, resident of a small hill station in India, have their own stories to tell in Glover's debut, A House Called Askival. The father, James, is lamenting on a past mistake and everyday the guilt is eating him up bit-by-bit, on the same time, Ruth, too, who has an estranged relationship with her father, is back in her family home after 24years due to see to her dying father, who too is facing her own past ghosts to confront the present. The stories stretch from James' childhood period during the Partition to his marriage to his daughters' birth to Ruth's childhood when to falling in love during the Anti-Sikh riots to her leaving home in India, which are told between two generations where two souls, being the victims of two historic events of Indian history, are on a path to enlightened self by making peace wit their haunted past.

After reading the book, I had a hard time in believing whether Merryn Glover is first time author, because I can bet that many seasoned authors too can't reproduce this masterpiece with perfect amount of emotions and intricate descriptions of India. There are authors like Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitava Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, Neel Mukherjee, Kiran Desai, etc who have brought alive this country with rich descriptions through their stories, now after reading this book, I would gladly put Merryn Glover's name on the same list of authors who could represent India so vividly with it's colors, scent and culture along with the history.

The writing style is fantastic and is layered with deep evocative emotions. Moreover, the elegant prose proves to be a perfect setting for this book. The narrative is rich with emotions and deeply moving. The book is based on many different themes as well as aspects of our lives. Since Ruth's family was a Christian Missionary settled in India, hence the backdrop of faith and preaching is very high in the book, that only proves to be a point of enlightenment for the readers. Unfortunately, this rich family drama moves at a snail's pace, but that did not deter my interest from the story.

The characters are all intensely developed that reflect a deep hue of myriad emotions, that are developed with lots of depth through their back stories. Both the characters suffered from their own personal guilt from the past and carried them with sadness into their present days, but by opening doors to the past only they could make peace with those guilt, hence the author left a huge deal of space for the characters to grow within the story. Moreover, the supporting characters are too very well developed where some manage to leave an impressionistic mark even after the end of the story.

The background of Mussourie is vividly captured by the author in this story, from the Mussoorie's trademark boarding school type of life in the picturesque landscape of this hill station in India. The language, the food, everything brings out the visual imagery as well as sensory feel of the whole setting. The landscape is strikingly drawn by the author that only made me feel like taking a trip down to the hills with my own eyes. I've been to Mussoorie so I could relate to some of the stories as well as minute details of the hills. Overall, this is a must read book which is rich in descriptions that contains a poignant as well as entertaining story.

Verdict: Take a trip down to India by grabbing a copy of this engrossing book now.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Merry Glover's publicist for providing me with a copy of the book, in return for an honest review. 

Author Info:
I am a writer with a published novel and work appearing in anthologies, journals and newspapers, and broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland and Radio 4.  I am also a qualified English, drama and dance teacher and a facilitator for creative expression.  Whether travelling the globe or at my desk, crossing cultures is my life. 
Visit her here

Book Purchase Links:


  1. The title of this one is unique! I love when books are set in different places from the usual like India and so on!

  2. Hello Aditi, thank you so much for your glowing review. I am absolutely delighted that you enjoyed the book and honoured by your comments. All the best,


Thanks for your feedback!