The Great Hill
Stations of Asia
“The age of the hill station mirrored the period when seaside resorts, spas and the great mountain lodges were built in Europe and the United States. In some case, the style and atmosphere of these European or American mountain retreats were consciously copied in the colonies. A planner of Baguio, in the Philippines, was influenced by the Adirondacks, for example. But in colonial Asia, the relatively high altitude hill station, usually at 5,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level, always had to be more than just a resort. It had to be a medical center of sorts to justify an officer’s taking recuperative leave, however flimsy the excuse or ineffectual the cure. The site had to be beyond the reach of mosquitoes, though it was not known until the end of the 19th century that the malaria parasite was carried by these insects. The hill station was also a genteel fantasyland, a retreat from reality where the homesick colonial could be cosseted by the atmosphere of a European hometown, down to its familiar institutions: the club, the library, the village church. The hill station at its homiest was and is a phenomenon most often associated with the British in India, but the French, the Americans, and to some extent the Dutch also endowed them with similar properties.”
William Dalrymple, writing in The Times Literary Supplement in London, calls the book “marvelous, funny and poignant.”
Alexander Frater, reviewing the book for The New York Times Book Review, said that “The Great Hill Stations of Asia should be required reading for anyone contemplating an Asian journey; the region’s history, politics, religion and economics are brilliantly summarized in a series of crisp, scholarly briefings. Yet, she also maintains a lively social curiosity.”
“This book is even-handed, clear-headed and very well written, in the tradition of the best travel literature,” wrote Robin Winks in The Washington Post. “She is at her best when most personal, especially in an extended description, both very funny and very compassionate, of being the only guest in Mussoorie’s Savoy Hotel in the middle of winter.”
Fergus Bordewich wrote in the Smithsonian: "Crossette has a real affection for picturesque remnants of the colonial world .... At the same time, she keeps a reporter's incisive eye to the dynamic reality of modern Asia. Far from disappearing, the old hill stations have become fashionable playgrounds for the nouveaux riches"
The Economist found it “sharp and funny.”
The Great Hill Stations of Asia was a New York Times notable book of the year in 1998. Conde Nast Traveler named it a Book of the Month.