Kaye's family had served the Raj in India for two generations before her birth. Born in Simla, India, on August 21, 1908, Kaye entered the world the daughter of a British man serving in the Indian Army who later became Director of Central Intelligence. With her father, Kaye traveled around the country and saw India first-hand. At the age of ten, though, she was sent back to England in order to learn how to be properly British. After boarding school and art school, she returned to her beloved India. Time passed and with her father's death, Kaye found herself once again in England, this time almost destitute and lonely.
For an income she illustrated novels and decided that she could write better than the authors of the books she was reading. After penning one book and receiving payment, she fled to India and lived with her sister. There she met and married a Major-General with whom through his military relocations she began embarking on journeys. Kaye continued writing suspenseful detective novels and one children's book called Ordinary Princess.
Changing direction in her writing career, Kaye began penning historical romances that portrayed two conflicting cultures. Her first two books sold modestly. Then she came across a diary that coincided with a story that an Indian had told her long ago. He'd said the tale had been handed down through the generations about a bride's family's attempt to switch one daughter for another at a royal wedding. When Kaye found this same story preserved in an English officer's diary, she determined to write a novel about the affair. Fourteen years in the making and after fighting cancer, Kaye finished The Far Pavilions which afforded her much fame. Eventually the book was translated into sixteen languages, adapted into television movies, and made into a London musical in 2005.
Her understanding of Indian culture and British rule enabled Kaye to add cultural dimension to her writings. Throughout her stories it is often the accurate depiction of India and its people that resonates most strongly with her readers. After her husband's death, Kaye wrote an autobiography in three volumes, thereby extending her writing career almost until her own death. Even at age 95 Kaye still worked. She and others were planning the musical production of one of her books when she passed away on January 29, 2004.
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