Younger’s essay is basically a catalog of the western women that, in the 19th and early 20th century, married Indian princes, the fabled Rahjas of India.
Each “wicked woman” gets her own chapter, maybe one photograph, and a collection of facts detailing her biography, and her “scandalous” choice.
It’s a weird mix of politics, social issues and assorted prejudics that these women stirred – and Coralie Younger’s approach is disinctively anti-romanthic.
While all the characters in her book are vividly depicted and highly fascinating, the genaral picture is one in which not always the best traits of human beings prevail. From unchecked passions to alcohol-fueled dramas, to suspect murders and court intrigues, the book is a fun, if at times cynical read.
The book is also an interesting counterpoint to Margaret McMillan‘s larger essay, Women of the Raj, that is wider in scope and more comprehensive. By focusing on the Rahjas and their wives, Younger’s book illuminates some aspects of the Raj that are not often discussed – and casts yet another light on some of the westerners living in India during the British colonial domination, and that remained off-screen in some of the more academical studies.
In the end, there’s little wickedness in these women – and a lot of food for thought, about perceptions, prejudice, bigotry, lust and many other human traits.