Anila is a young orphan, whose father was an Irish artist who worked for the East India Company and married her mother, a beautiful young Indian girl who lived along the Ganga River. Even after her mother dies, Anila still believes that her father will come back and try to find her. When her caretakers, the artist Thomas Hickey and his daughter, move to Madras, Anila insists on staying in Calcutta to wait for her father to return. Miss Hickey encourages her to apply for a job drawing and painting birds on a expedition up the river. Armed with a collection of artwork and a letter of recommendation, Anila heads off to apply for the position.
I thought this was a wonderful story. Marketed to young adults, this book definitely has some crossover appeal. I was taken with Anila from the start and its an original and highly readable story, with an ending that took me by surprise. Personally, I love all things taxonomic, so I may have been highly swayed by that, but I think that readers who like historical novels, will find this a good read. Mary Finn said that her inspiration to write this book came from the Thomas Hickey painting, An Indian Lady, but it clearly developed into so much more.