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The Far Cry

by Emma Smith
Persephone book no:

32 33 34

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A Well Full of Leaves
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ISBN 9781903155233

When she was 23 Emma Smith went to India with a documentary film unit that included Laurie Lee, who was employed by the Tea Board to write two scripts. On her return to England she published Maiden’s Trip, about her wartime life on a narrow-boat: then, ‘financially solvent, I took up residence, alone with my typewriter, in a tiny room in the Hôtel de Tournon, Paris.’ The result was The Far Cry.

The Far Cry 'centres round Teresa aged fourteen' (Emma Smith told her original publisher) 'and her elderly father who, in his anxiety to keep her from his second wife, her mother, undertakes a formidable journey from England to his other daughter in the north of India. Teresa's feelings in the matter are not considered, or even discovered by her dominating parent. Himself in search of reassurance and love, he is blind to the same need existing beside him in Teresa.'

The departure from England and the voyage out make up the first two sections of the book, and the trip across India by train the third; the fourth and fifth are about India and what happens there. The focus of the novel is on Teresa and her responses to the people she meets and to India itself; and her maturing from a child into a young girl, mirroring, perhaps, Emma Smith's own change from girl to woman while she was in India. 

The Far Cry was the first book on publisher MacGibbon & Kee's newly-launched list. This 'savage comedy with a vicious streak' (Elizabeth Bowen in The Tatler in 1949) describes the 'second passage to India' of 'Teresa, whose elderly, willful father drags her off to spare her from the clutches of her mother…I can think of no writer, British or Indian, who has captured so vividly, with such intensity, the many intangibles of the Indian kaleidoscope; Emma Smith harnessed those intense impressions of her youth to give her story a quite extraordinary driving force' wrote Charles Allen in the Spectator, going on to agree with Susan Hill in her Afterword that the book is 'a small masterpiece…beautifully shaped, evocative, moving and mature.'

The Far Cry was a Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4.

Also available as a Persephone e-book

Also available: a Persephone Napkin in the fabric used for the endpaper for this book.


The endpaper is a late 1930s English printed linen which Teresa's sister might have chosen for her bungalow from a catalogue sent out from London.

Read What Readers Say

The Literary Sisters (blogger)

Emma Smith has crafted her writing beautifully, and turns of phrase are lovely. She writes descriptions with such clarity, and her ardent appreciation for nature is clear from the very start. The sense of place is so well described that it almost feels claustrophobic at times, particularly with regard to the Indian vistas. It presses in upon its characters, and the things which befall them along the way. I was swept away in the story, and found it very difficult to put A Far Cry down.

Valerie Grove, ‘The Times’

‘The Far Cry’ is undoubtedly a small masterpiece.

Categories: Childhood Family Fathers Overseas

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