Olivia in India

October 31, 2007

I come across many funny things in my reading, but rarely do I find a line as memorable as “John Bunyan, you’re in the sun without your topi.”

Explaining it would only detract from its charm.

I will say, however, that I found it in a pleasant but not wonderful 1912 epistolary novel called Olivia In India, by Anna Buchan. Olivia is a young woman from Scotland who is going to spend the winter with her brother in India. Her brother is called Boggley. It’s a nickname, but we’re never told what his real name is. Olivia’s not big on names, I guess. We don’t learn the name of her correspondent — Arthur, it turns out — until nearly the end.

In spite of plenty of discomforts, Olivia enjoys her trip. And it makes a nice book, but other than that, there’s not much to be said. I was completely absorbed while I was reading it, but now that I’m done, I feel like there was something a little lacking. The book was never quite as interesting as it thought it was, and I think I was mostly just anxious to find out whether or not Olivia and Arthur were in love. They were.

Still, I think it will be a long time before I forget “John Bunyan, you’re in the sun without your topi.”

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