Stories here exhibit the wide reach of [Jhabvala's] imagination ... Storylines take you into temples bedecked with tinsel, marigolds and peacock feathers, past police barracks where men in vests and shorts oil their beards and wind their turbans...India’s sensuousness sizzles. Colours blaze. Immense dark-blue monsoon clouds release silver torrents of rain ... In one story, westernised Indians joke that they are 'like Chekhov characters'. In fact, most of Jhabvala’s people are ... This collection offers (with detours to Manhattan and Hollywood) a marvellous passage around India.
A posthumous new collection of selected short fiction, At the End of the Century: The Stories of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, showcases [Jhabvala's] darker cadences. The stories — all of them elegantly plotted and unsentimental, with an addictive, told-over-tea quality — are largely character studies of people isolated, often tragically, by custom or self-delusion ... These vivid, unsparing portraits are leavened with the kind of humanizing moments that evoke a total world within their compression ... If her stories have fallen slightly out of fashion, it may be in some part because of this resistance to the soul laid bare. Her characters have little interiority or agency; the fates they run up against tend to feel inexorable, especially in her later stories, in which the ironic distance cools into cynicism ... Jhabvala’s stories are also, of course, unfashionable for another reason: their unabashed ventriloquizing of another culture, an inhabiting of India and Indians that a contemporary author might take pains to artistically justify, all the more so now that our bookshelves are filled with Indian authors writing in English. But this is what surely gives Jhabvala’s work its rare gleam: the undeceived clarity of the eternal outsider, immersed yet apart.
Offers plentiful reasons to celebrate [Jhabvala's] brilliance ... Jhabvala has Alice Munro’s gift for making you feel you’re reading a novel in miniature as she distills to their essence broad expanses of geography, personal history and time. She has a sharp eye for how helplessness can become a weapon in personal relations. She’s also astute on how subtle the shifts in power dynamics between two people can be, and how irrational situations can take on a life and logic of their own ... [Jhabvala] has a healthy respect for the riddles of human behavior. She doesn’t explain contradictions or self-destructive impulses away. She simply presents them as they are: strange, real and troublesome.