Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


Jason Zeitler
The Half-Caste
In 1933, a young mixed-race Ceylonese, Vernon Prins, arrives in England to do postgraduate work at the London School of Economics. He becomes politically active and infiltrates the British Fascist Party. He is particularly troubled by the Party's overt antisemitism because one of his closest friends, Saul Maccabee, is Jewish. \tThe novel’s two main themes relate to social justice and human evolution. The title of the novel comes from a term the colonial Dutch used to describe mixed-race Ceylonese. But the term “half-caste” carries other connotations as well, about social status and identity. Vernon, whose father is Dutch and whose mother is Sinhalese, simultaneously inhabits two worlds and can see from both perspectives: the world of white privilege and the world of underprivileged color. It is his Sinhalese heritage that leads Vernon to infiltrate the Fascist Party, and he is able to do so because he looks white. \tAfter Vernon and Saul travel to Ceylon--which comprises Part 2 of the novel--Saul falls in love with Vernon’s sister Minnette. He also gets involved with a Ceylonese socialist party, but because the British government and the moneyed elite do not take kindly to his agitating, Governor Stubbs issues a deportation order against him. Saul defies the order and goes into hiding. An island-wide manhunt ensues, and the novel ends with Saul and Vernon together in the jungle, evading the police.
In Zeitler’s debut historical fiction, Vernon Price, a “half-caste” (he’s half Dutch and half Ceylonese) navigates growing fascism in England and imperialism in Ceylon. Living in a vividly evoked 1930s London, Vernon’s a college student working on his thesis but also part of a fascist group known as the “Jackboots.” Or at least he pretends to be—in truth, he’s a spy reporting back to the opposition. He hates this work, but in the course of it he meets his future love, Zoe, a nurse who soon quits the Jackboots, repulsed by their rhetoric. Meanwhile, Vernon’s best friend, Saul Maccabee, begins standing up against fascism in his writing, all as he grieves his late wife. When Vernon is forced to take a sabbatical and return to Ceylon to face the impending death of his father, Saul accompanies him, having no idea how important he’s about to become to Ceylon’s anti-imperialist movement.

Zeitler does a spectacular job of blending compelling true history, with these fictional lives, whose personal experiences stir a deeper, immersive understanding of the era and of what it takes to push back against humanity’s worst. With crisp prose and cultural sensitivity, the novel offers incisive perspective on the anger, fear, connections, and love that drive people to stand up against hateful ideologies.

Zeitler will also leave readers with a rich understanding of Ceylon, better known as Sri Lanka, the island nation colonized by the British. Through the eyes of Vernon’s family, once owners of a large plantation, and through the eyes of Saul, who knows very little about Ceylon but immerses himself in the culture, The Half-Caste conjures Ceylon with such persuasive power, charting the heartbreaking growth of racial prejudice and a movement, joined by the passionate Saul, who takes on his own nation’s colonial project—and will face terror and tragedy. Although the novel ends abruptly, and more could be told, readers will walk away satisfied, buoyed by these characters who risk it all for what’s right.

Takeaway: Heart-rending novel of standing up to fascism in 1930s Britain and Ceylon.

Comparable Titles: Edie Meidav’s The Far Field, Frank Griffin’s October Day.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A