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One Last Look by Susanna Moore
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One Last Look by Susanna Moore
Paperback $22.00
Oct 12, 2004 | ISBN 9781400075416

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  • $22.00

    Oct 12, 2004 | ISBN 9781400075416

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  • Jul 04, 2012 | ISBN 9780307826596

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"Intriguing. . . . Moore . . . conjure[s] the heat and light and color of this hot, beautiful land, its smells and sensual allure. A compelling and richly textured story."–The New York Times

“Moore is a wonderful writer with a sensuous style. . . . [One Last Look] takes on the quality of a feverish dream.” —The Baltimore Sun

“How marvelous is a book that educates but does not preach. . . . [A] cautionary tale for smart women . . . and dumb men . . . but the beauty of the prose and the complexity of the narrative here far outweigh any edifying messages.” —The Washington Post

“A beauitiful and powerful novel that records one woman’s experience while illuminating a world of imperial folly and colonial rapacity and stupidity.” —The Boston Globe

“Vertinginous. . . .The sense of passing through a distant, phantasmagorical place with a curious and perceptive guide, is undeniable.” —The Seattle Times

“It is the secret world of women that Moore excels at painting, a world of unspoken truths and oblique connections.” —Time Out New York

“[A] stranger, extoic, ungraspable place. . . . Moore is an extraordinarily gifted conjurer of weather, smells and sickness; riches, bliasters and bugs, her words steam directly off the page.” —Chicago Tribune

“The descriptive prose leaves one feeling the hot, dusty days and torrential monsoons….Moore’s image of saffron-tinged India will have readers pulling out their Baedeker’s and booking passage on the next ship sailing for foreign climes.” —Library Journal

“[C]aptivating…fascinating…As Eleanor writes in her diary, ‘The writing of women is always read in the hope of discovering women’s secrets’; Eleanor and her creator reveal just enough glimpses to keep readers transfixed.” —Publishers Weekly

“[R]ich, lush…and wonderfully satisfying.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[E]leanor is mesmerizing….” —Booklist

“[E]vocative…” —Harper’s Bazaar

“An enormous accomplishment–vivid and precise, evocative and alluring, reflective of impressive scholarship. . . . Moore is an extraordinarily gifted conjurer of weather, smells and sickness; riches, blisters and bugs. Her words stream directly off the page.”–The Chicago Tribune

“Splendid. . . . A rueful farewell to an age of conquest and colonization that–despite its period trappings–looks peculiarly like our own. A deeply moving story of empowerment and loss.”–O, The Oprah Magazine

“Lyrical. . . . [Filled with] lushly described landscape and coyly revealed Victorian sexual eccentricities.”–Entertainment Weekly

“What Moore has done is to squeeze out of her peppery observations a nascent feminism and a covert sexuality. She heats Eden up.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Chilling. . . . [Moore] gives Eleanor a rich interior life and a mordant humor.” —Vogue

“[Moore] excels at evoking time and place–the dresses and the narrative voice just so, the moans of the mango bird in the tree exquisitely described.”–The New Yorker

“Breathtaking. . . . An engaging, luscious read. The characters are richly drawn . . . [and] rise effortlessly from the page.” —The Oregonian

“The accomplishment of One Last Look is a gradual unfolding of sensual detail that is truly transporting.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Sensual steamy prose . . . masterfully evok[es] the likely sounds, smells and sights of early-19th-century life in colonial India.” —Houston Chronicle

“It is the secret world of women that Moore excels at painting, a world of unspoken truths and oblique connections. . . . It is a measure of Moore’s skill that they never are [discovered].” —Time Out New York

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Susanna Moore

Q: What was your inspiration for writing this novel? Was it based much on the real Governor-general of India and his sisters and did they travel to Calcutta from England in 1936?

A: I lived in Calcutta for five months in 1999. While I was there, I read many journals, diaries, collections of letters and histories. While reading Up The Country by Emily Eden, who traveled to India in 1836 with her sister Fanny, her nephew, and her brother George Eden, Lord Auckland, I began to wonder what her life would have been—it seemed to me so clear from her letters that she was not telling the whole truth. I didn’t know if she even knew the truth herself; most likely she did not. But I began to think about Calcutta in 1836: what would it have been like for Emily Eden and her younger sister, Fanny? That is how I began to write One Last Look.

Q: The language is, at times, reminiscent of Jane Austen. How did you go about finding the right pitch/conversational tone for these particular English aristocrats?

A: For two years I read everything I could find about England and India in the first half of the nineteenth century. I kept a notebook which turned into six large notebooks by the end of the two years. There are passages in the novel that are taken verbatim from the diaries of Emily Eden and Fanny Eden and another extraordinary traveler, Fanny Parkes.

Q: What does it mean in the story when a merchant says, “Calcutta is a pot of honey”?

A: "Calcutta is a pot of honey" means that in the first half of the nineteenth century, before the society became truly Victorian in feeling and tone, Bengal was a place to make money. The Governor-Generals returned to England rich men. It was a bountiful, lush, prosperous, easy place to make a fortune—in coal, in jute, and particularly cloth. It was also a very important market, like China, for export goods.

Q: The lives of women, even the aristocratic ones, come across as incredibly stifling, even when on colonial soil far away from home. Do you think this was true? And while your previous novel, the contemporary thriller set in New York, In the Cut, is so completely different in tone from this one, it could be said that each has a smart, strong, and observant woman at the center. Do they seem at all similar to you?

A. The lives of women were stifling. That is, in part, what interested me. It is possible to say that all of my books concern themselves with the notion of what it means to be female—whether it is in New York City in 2000 or Calcutta in 1836. In that way, my books really are the same.

Q: The relationship between the two sisters, Eleanor and Harriet, and their brother, Henry, is very close—to the point where Eleanor considers accompanying her brother to India her highest calling. Was that unusual for the time?

A: It was most usual for sisters when they were unmarried to remain together, and with other members of their family when it was possible. It was a matter of decorum as well as money. Because Eleanor is particularly close to her brother, remaining behind would have been out of the question. She also served a most practical purpose, in that Henry was a bachelor without a hostess. She was able to bring sophistication and intelligence to her role as mistress of Government House. Henry needed her with him for that, as well as for companionship and to exercise his familial responsibility.

Q: Concerning the people who really did live in this Imperialist society, do you think they felt they deserved to be there or was it simply fulfilling their duty to the crown? In other words, did they really think of themselves as good “agents of change” or was there guilt in exploiting others?

A: It seems to me from everything I have read, apart from the wonderful Fanny Parkes, the real heroine of the Raj, that almost everyone in India certainly thought they should be there, as agents of change, as agents of commerce, as agents of empire.

Q: Having grown up in Hawaii, did you relate at all to your character’s desire to take all the seductive color and beauty of India and recreate it back in England?

A: Growing up in Hawaii, which is not physically unlike south India, did help me to feel comfortable in India from the very start — I have been there five times — but it is an utterly different culture. I knew that I could
only write about it as an outsider, which is why Eleanor was born.

Q: You also have a travel book coming out this year: where to?

A: The travel book, just published by National Geographic Directions as part of the series that includes Oliver Sacks and W.S. Merwin and Louise Erdrich, et. al, is about Hawaii. It is called I Myself Have Seen It: The Myth of Hawai’i.

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