In the book, US-based literary critic Margaret Paul Joseph documents a journey of female writers through the 19th to 21st century, using the genre of the novel to describe their Indian experience. "India has the equivalent of the romance novel and the kind of pulp fiction published in the West. Popular novels laced with generous dollops of sex appear to be gaining popularity today, but they are not the focus of this study," she says.
"While feminist critics in the West have done their bit to bring their own writers to public attention in literary histories, little has been done to cover the spectrum of women English-writing novelists in India," she cites as the idea behind her book, published by Oxford University Press.
Women novelists in India who write fiction in English are, increasingly, gaining international recognition for their work but there is no extensive literary history of such writers, as there is of feminist writers in the West, she says.
Exploring the works of well-known women writers, who wrote in India, the book seeks to shed light on their technique of writing, selection of subject matter, and focus of interest.
Alice Perrin, Flora Annie Steel, Rumer Godden, Toru Dutt, Krupabai Satthinadhan, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Nayantara Sahgal, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Kamala Markandaya, Anita Desai, Shashi Deshpande and Arundhati Roy - English fiction in India is the common thread that binds these women.
Joseph says choosing women in India who wrote or write fiction in English is comparatively easy because one of her guiding principles is quality rather than quantity of writing.
"Apart from language and native residence, originality of idea and plot, and language are other considerations. Hence, I have not selected so-called 'popular' writing such as romances or what is called 'chick-lit'. We know that bestsellers are not always the best literature.
Joseph chose only fiction and not the many books of travel by those "intrepid foreign women who braved" scorching heat, uncharted jungles, and primitive conditions to visit India.
"What I hope to demonstrate in the novels I have chosen to list, is the experience of being in India. And my title will, I hope, bring such experiences to fragrant life.
"To describe its pertinence, I have chosen an Indian custom that would not exist without these women who do not write because they have neither the financial support nor the education that would enable them to indulge in literary creativity: they are the flower-sellers in Indian markets," she says.
According to the author, she discovered something about each writer's history and background during her research for her book.
"We began with the British women who made Indian their temporary home. Dutt, Satthianadhan and Hossain were, we discovered, pioneers who explored hitherto unknown territory. The two women who pointed the way to the modern novel were Sahgal and Markandaya. Desai, Jhabvala and Deshpande introduced completely new and exciting elements into Indian fiction in English.
"Finally, we realised that through the writing of Roy, Nair and Hariharan, specific regions in India bring their own social or political experiences to the Indian novel," she says.
In the book, US-based literary critic Margaret Paul Joseph documents a journey of female writers through the 19th to 21st century, using the genre of the novel to describe their Indian experience.
"India has the equivalent of the romance novel and the kind of pulp fiction published in the West. Popular novels laced with generous dollops of sex appear to be gaining popularity today, but they are not the focus of this study," she says.