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Found 13 results

  1. Antara is a middle class Indian woman. Her husband, Dilip, is an American Indian (no, not one of those) who was sent by his company to Pune despite hardly speaking a word of Hindi and breaking his rotis with two hands. What had been a very happy, westernised relationship is now transformed by the arrival of Antara's senile mother and the imminent arrival of a baby. Antara is less than thrilled by her change in circumstances as she explains to readers in sassy, sarcastic tones. Antara loathes her mother, but she is honour bound to support her. The mother - Tara to her daughter's Un-tara - s
  2. Jai is nine years old. He lives in a slum in the shadow of high rise (hi fi) apartments in an unnamed Indian city. He goes to school; his family has food on the table; he is addicted to crime documentaries on TV. He is on the cusp of leaving childhood as he has an emergent adult awareness of the perils and opportunities around him. So when an unloved classmate goes missing, Jai rounds up a posse of friends and embarks on detective work to try to trace him. Gradually more children disappear, but still the police aren't interested - what are poor lives worth anyway? Jai
  3. Saroo Brierley was years old when, out on a nefarious expedition with his older brother, he crept into an empty train and fell asleep. By the time he was able to get out of the train he was in Kolkata with no idea of how to get home. He lived on the streets for a while, had some very narrow escapes, then was picked up, sen tto anorphanage and after fruitless attempts to find his family was adopted by a couple in Australia. 25 years later, with only hazy and inaccurate memories of his train journey, he set about trying to find out where he came from and his birth mother. It's an
  4. Samskara (a Sanskrit word) has many meanings: A rite of passage or life-cycle ceremony, forming well - making perfect, the realisation of past perceptions, preparation - making ready, are just some. This novel (written in Kannada and translated to English by AK Ramanujan) has the English subtitle A Rite for a Dead Man, one of the meanings of Samskara. But that meaning, while being the immeidate subject of the novel, is less important than some of the others. Set before independence, it was written in 1965 and translated into English in 1976. When Naranappa, a renegade Br
  5. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a long and sprawling novel that seems to cover a vast swathe of current political issues, seen through the lens of modern Indian society.We open with the story of Anjum, an intersex woman who identifies as female despite being brought up as a boy. She finds others in the same position and joins a community with them in Delhi’s old town. But gradually, she branches out on her own and forms her own community of oddballs and misfits, hanging out in a graveyard. Much of the mis-fitting seems to stem from religious and caste based prejudice.Then the story shifts
  6. Ghachar Ghochar is a deliciously nasty little story.Our narrator is sat in Coffee Shop, a Bangalore restaurant that has humble origins. He sits, making his coffee last for hours, admiring the sophistication and discretion of Vincent, the handsome waiter. Our narrator quietly watches the drama in other people’s lives unfold around him, sitting serenely with his coffee getting cold. This inspires our narrator into reminiscing how he came to be sat there. Our narrator’s story peels back in layers like an onion. First he tells us of his daily life coming to the Coffee Shop; then he tells us how th
  7. The Lowland is a flat area of marshland next to the settlement of Tollygunge in Calcutta. Tollygunge houses a golf course and, even after independence, is well patrolled to keep the locals out. This symbol of colonial power is the catalyst to inspire brothers Udayan and Subhash to join the dangerous world of Indian-Maoist Marxism. But, as time passes, the brothers mature. Subhash takes up a study scholarship at a university in Rhode Island whilst Udayan stays loyal to the cause. This parting of the ways is deeply symbolic of the crossroads at which India found istelf in the 1960s and 1970s
  8. Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways is very topical, dealing with the lives of illegal and semi-legal migrants to the UK. But topicality does not guarantee that a novel is any good. In this novel, Sahota introduces us to a number of Indian migrants who have ended up in Sheffield and London. Principally, we follow Randeep, Avtar and Tochi as they embark on a new life. Avtar is on a student visa but has no intention of studying; Tochi arrived hidden in a lorry, and Randeep has hit the jackpot with a marriage of convenience to Narinder, a British woman of Indian heritage. They struggle
  9. Sleeping On Jupiter is extremely neutral. Yes, really. Some of the writing is good, the characters are clear cut, but overall it is very, very meh. Part of the shortcoming is that the novel features three stories all set in the coastal town of Jarmuli. One is the story of Nomi, an Indian refugee returning on a filming mission to the scene of some atrocities she experienced in childhood. The second is the story of Gouri, Latika and Vidya, three older women on holiday and trying to cope with Gouri’s dementia. The third is the story of some of the beach boys who sell tea and guided tours to t
  10. The Lives of Others is long. Way too long. This sprawling Indian family saga charts the rise of the Ghosh family, Calcutta industrialists, as they accumulate wealth in the paper and publishing industry and then proceed to lose it as their country disintegrates and their investments fail to pay off. Against this backdrop, the sons and daughters of the family squabble. The backdrop is good. There is a wonderful insight into the politics of change; the sleaze; the corruption; the instability. We see the contrast between the young Turks of the Communist Party ranged against the old order of the
  11. This is not your normal theatrical biography, though Felicity Kendal does describe her career and its sucesses this book was written while her father lay dieing and is largely a paean to him. Geoffrey Kendal was a beloved monster, charming, beguiling and utterly selfish. He fell in love with India and the idea of setting up a touring Shakespearean troupe and that's exactly what he did, dragging his long suffering actress wife, 13 year old daughter and baby Felicity in his wake. The story of Felicity's peripatetic childhood travelling all over India, taking her first role aged six, snatch
  12. Guest

    Asia

    I read books set in Asia, books about Asia, books by Asians (regardless of where in the world they may reside), books about the immigrant experience, and basically anything that can by any definition broad or narrow be called 'Asian'. I have deliberately made this broad, broad, broad because I don't want to get bogged down in discussion ending arguments about who or who isn't Asian and if a book is or is not 'Asian'. If it is about Asia, Asians, an Asian experience or written by some one who is Asian - its in!
  13. Narcopolis, Jeet Thayil's debut novel, was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker prize, although as I recall considered a rank outsider to win. It certainly has the kind of elements that might turn the heads of some prize judging panels. It is stylistically experimental, with a first sentence running to six pages, even longer than it seems in the context of what is a fairly short novel. It is epic in scope, covering thirty years in the history of Bombay's (never Mumbai) opium smoking classes, and examining the lives of a variety of characters, from Mr Lee, who flees communist China's Cultura
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