A Passage to India by EM Forster (1924)
This has proved the ultimate decline-of-empire classic, backdropped by the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. When Adela Quested and her ageing travelling companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they are put out by its repressed and prejudice atmosphere. So they set out to find the ‘real India’. They engage the charming and respectable Dr Aziz as their guide, but after a mysterious incident at the Marabar caves, he is thrust into the eye of a scandal that grips both British and Indian sides of the imperial coin.
It was, said celebrated Indian novelist Anita Desai, Forster’s ‘great book… masterly in its prescience and its lucidity.’