‘The Mission House’ by Carys Davies – An English Gentleman in India Today


The Mission House’ by Carys Davies (2021) – 258 pages


What does one read after the exceptional ‘The Promise’?

‘The Mission House’ is nothing like ‘The Promise’. That is why it is the perfect follow-up read after ‘The Promise’. After I finished reading ‘The Promise’, I started and gave up on a couple of novels. That is what usually happens after I read an extraordinary novel; the next can never measure up. ‘The Mission House’ has the distinct advantage that it is nothing like ‘The Promise’. Where ‘The Promise’ is loud and angry, ‘The Mission House’ is reticent and quiet and almost gentle. The strengths of ‘The Mission House’ are almost the complete opposite of ‘The Promise’.

Vive la différence.

‘The Mission House’ is not at all sensational; it is life-affirming. It is about redemption at the individual person-to-person level. It is at the one-to-one level that saving souls occurs. Davies’ fiction is not about religion; it is much deeper than that.

Although Carys Davies is a writer born in Wales and now living in Edinburgh, her previous excellent novel ‘West’ takes place in the United States. ‘The Mission House’ takes place in a town in the hilly thus cooler region of India.

An Auto Rickshaw

‘The Mission House is a quiet little novel about a man traveling to India seeking redemption. We gradually, gracefully find out about our main protagonist, Hilary Byrd. After leaving England, first he escaped the hot, damp, crowded southern part of India and found this high grassy plateau town. Since he doesn’t drive, his main means of travel is the auto rickshaw which are in general use throughout India. Later we find out that Hilary has lost his longtime job as a librarian in England and is at loose ends seeking something from life he has not yet found. With his shy reserve, Hilary gives off an aura of being unmoored and lost. Despite his restraint, somehow he establishes a small network of friends in this Indian town. His letters back to his sister in England reflect his new-found good spirits.

It was the combination of the strange and the familiar that suited him.”

I really liked the style of ‘The Mission House’ with its short chapters and its understated pleasures. Like I said before, it’s the near opposite of ‘The Promise’, but each of these two are excellent in their own ways.


Grade:    A




3 responses to this post.

  1. This sounds lovely. I’ve always wanted to go to India, but it’s off the agenda for the time being.

    Liked by 1 person


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