In The Pool in the Desert, first published in 1903, Sara Jeannette Duncan explores the impact of isolation on the small British communities of Victorian India. In the four stories collected here—“The Pool in the Desert,” “A Mother in India,” “An Impossible Ideal,” and “The Hesitation of Miss Anderson”—Duncan’s women have certain freedoms living amidst the reaches of Empire, but they also must negotiate their way through a landscape dominated by the constraints of small military societies. The stories that result combine a delicacy of manners and movement that recalls Henry James, with a wit and sharp eye for small town foibles that bring Stephen Leacock to mind.
“Readers who enjoy Sara Jeannette Duncan’s artful insights into the manners, coterie culture, and presumptuous biases of Anglo-India will delight in the ironies of these stories. Duncan’s ‘English,’ wrapped up in their institutions and their pride, consider themselves above the ordinary here; while her watchful narrators think they can stand apart from the social emptiness and moral failings they observe, they discover, to their discomfort, that they are part of what they see—as eager for happiness, as susceptible to humiliation, as open to both judgment and understanding” — W.H. New, University of British Columbia
“The Pool in the Desert represents the climate of desire that defined the New Woman, and that animated Sara Jeannette Duncan in her striving for personal and professional achievement. This new edition includes valuable background information which situates the book within the discourses of imperial-colonial politics and of feminist resistance, and as part of the vibrant international context of Canadian writing at the turn of the century.” — Misao Dean, University of Victoria