Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Those I Have Lost by Sharon Maas, a wartime saga set in India and Ceylon

Sharon Maas is a novelist whose works I’ve been meaning to read for some time, since her books promised to bring me to places beyond the familiar sites we see so often in historical fiction.

Set in India and Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) before and during the WWII years, Those I Have Lost takes an angle on the war that will be new for many readers. Events are seen through the eyes of Rosalind (Rosie) Todd, who narrates a heartfelt story of coming of age, love, and loss.

A girl of English heritage raised in a household free of cultural prejudice in pre-Partition India, Rosie loses her beloved mother at age 10, and her passing leaves her and her father, an academic scholar, in deep grief. When her late mother’s good friend, Silvia Huxley, pays a visit and asks to take Rosie to live with her family in Ceylon, sharing proof that it’s what her mother would have wanted, her father reluctantly agrees that a girl of Rosie’s age needs a woman’s guiding touch, and lets her go.

The Huxleys, who live in a “bungalow” (really a mansion) at a tea plantation in the green hills near the city of Kandy, are the parents of three boys, the younger two of whom, Andrew and Victor, were Rosie’s playmates on her earlier visits there. Graham, considerably older than his brothers, was a more distant figure and now works as a surgeon. As the war approaches, all three brothers sign on, to their mother’s anguish. Furthermore, Andrew has fallen in forbidden love with Usha, Rosie’s friend and the Huxleys’ housekeeper's daughter, whose marriage had been arranged with another man. And Rosie’s father vanishes after an enigmatic note, leading her to think he’s away in the mountains following an Indian guru. In other words, her personal life and the world around her are in turmoil.

Those I Have Lost is a briskly paced saga enhanced by its colorful, lush setting of mango trees and sweetly scented frangipani and its richly developed secondary characters and social contexts. The viewpoint of Usha’s mother, Sunita, is never seen firsthand, but we sense her thoughts based on her reactions to events, and her admonition to Usha to “remember her place.” The Catholic priest called “Father Bear,” an old friend of Rosie’s family, is refreshingly different from stereotype; he’s a self-described “Christian freethinker” who tells amusing dad-jokes.

I found the story most gripping during the war years, as Rosie and the Huxleys wait on tenterhooks to hear news of the three sons. A couple of the plot twists (there are many) were too much for my taste, but I did enjoy this story and the interactions among its multicultural cast.

Those I Have Lost was published by Bookouture this month; I read it from a NetGalley copy, and this review forms part of the publisher's blog tour.

Author Bio:

Sharon Maas was born into a prominent political family in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1951. She was educated in England, Guyana, and, later, Germany. After leaving school, she worked as a trainee reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown and later wrote feature articles for the Sunday Chronicle as a staff journalist.

Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, is set in Guyana and India and was published by HarperCollins in 1999. In 2014 she moved to Bookouture, and now has ten novels under her belt. Her books span continents, cultures, and eras. From the sugar plantations of colonial British Guiana in South America, to the French battlefields of World War Two, to the present-day brothels of Mumbai and the rice-fields and villages of South India, Sharon never runs out of stories for the armchair traveller.

Please visit the author at: and at


  1. I would have liked to have got this from Netgalley but it is archived already. Like the setting and the story. Thank you for the review.

  2. Sorry - the publisher usually archives books on the publication date. Thanks for your thoughts about the book.