Sunday, 13 July 2008

Book of the week - Anuradha Roy, An Atlas of Impossible Longing

Anuradha Roy is the Publisher of Permanent Black, an imprint in Delhi. She was shortlisted for the British Council International Young Publisher of the Year award in 2006. This is her first novel and reviews have been very positive. This is the sort of book which often features in the Booker Prize list - it has been added to my summer reading list! The story is of three generations of an Indian family, in which a sensitive and intelligent orphan boy who is casteless and without religion and Bakul, the motherless granddaughter of the house, grow up together. The boy, Mukunda, spends his time as a servant in the house or reading the books of Mrs Barnum, an Anglo-Englishwoman whose life was saved long ago by Bakul's grandmother. Mrs Barnum gives Mukunda the run of her house, but as he and Bakul grow, they become aware that their intense closeness is becoming something else, and Bakul's father is warned to separate them. He banishes Mukunda to a school in Calcutta, where in the years after Partition he prospers, and whence in time he will return to rediscover all that he has lost.The novel begins in 1907 with the founding of a factory in Songarh, a small provincial town where narrow attitudes prevail. Amulya and Kananbala have two sons and as their family grows, and the house and their garden too, a microcosm of a society develops.

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