Staying on, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


Tusker and Lily Smalley stayed on in India. Given the chance to return 'home' when Tusker, once a Colonel in the British Army, retired, they chose instead to remain in the small hill town of Pangkot, with its eccentric inhabitants and archaic rituals left over from the days of the Empire.

Only the tyranny of their landlady, the imposing Mrs Bhoolabhoy, threatens to upset the quiet rhythm of their days.

Both funny and deeply moving, Staying On is a unique, engrossing portrait of the end of an empire and of a forty-year love affair.


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Staying On, Paul Scott's last novel, was published in 1977 after the novels that made up The Raj Quartet and just before he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which would claim his life the following year. It is set in the small Indian hill town of Pangkot in 1972, where Colonel Tusker and Lucy Smalley, the town's only remaining British residents, live in an annex of a colonial hotel managed by Francis Bhoolabhoy, a thin and meek practicing Christian who shares drinks and stories with the Colonel, and owned by his wife Lila, whose greed and ambition is exceeded only by her girth. The Smalleys are retired, childless, and attempt to preserve the old order, although their meager income and old age limit their influence and relevance. The Colonel is tormented by poor health, a wife who no longer respects him after he decided to spend his remaining years in India without considering her, and the inhospitable Mrs Bhoolabhoy, who wants the Smalleys to leave her property, by any means necessary.I enjoyed the first 50 or so pages of Staying On, with its descriptions of the different elements of postcolonial Indian society, but I began to lose interest after that, as the characters became less likable and their accounts and lives became more tiresome and less amusing. The denouement of the novel was disclosed in the book's first paragraph, which also limited its effectiveness and interest to this reader. This novel would be of interest to those who have read The Raj Quartet, but it is not recommended as a first book to read by Paul Scott.
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Review by

A wonderful little off-center coda to the Raj Quartet. Takes up the lives of a minor couple, the Smalleys, who stayed on after independence. Brings in the other stories obliquely through correspondence with Sarah. Am still very much a fan of Scott. These are books I definitely recommend.