by Pico Iyer R. K. Narayan
About the book: ‘The best of R.K. Narayan’s enchanting novels’—The New Yorker Raju, a corrupt tourist guide, together with his lover, the dancer Rosie, leads a prosperous life before he is thrown into prison. After release he rests on the steps of an abandoned temple when a peasant passing by mistakes him for a holy man. Slowly, almost reluctantly, he begins to play the part, acting as a spiritual guide to the village community. Raju’s holiness is put to the test when a drought strikes the village, and he is asked to fast for twelve days to summon the rains. Set in Narayan’s fictional town, Malgudi, The Guide is the greatest of his comedies of self-deception. ‘A brilliant accomplishment … Narayan is the compassionate man who can write of human life as comedy’—The New York Times Book Review ‘Narayan is such a natural writer, so true to his experience and emotions’—V.S. Naipaul
by Raja Rao
About the book: Rama, a young scholar, meets Madeleine at a university in France. Though they seem to be made for each other, both alike in temperament and character, at times they are divided, a huge gulf separating them. Rama’s trip back to India for his father’s illness forcibly reminds him of the underlying contrasts between India and Europe, and of a certain conflict between them in himself. When he returns to France, Rama and Madeleine must face the problems in their marriage. Can they preserve their identities, or must one sacrifice one’s inheritance to make the relationship a success?
by John N. Maclean
About the book: Gone are the days when Nanda Kaul watched over her family and played the part of Vice-Chancellor’s wife. Leaving her children behind in the real world, the busier world, she has chosen to spend her last years alone in the mountains in Kasauli, in a secluded bungalow called Carignano. Until one summer her great-granddaughter Raka is dispatched to Kasauli – and everything changes. Nanda is at first dismayed at this break in her preciously acquired solitude. Fiercely taciturn, Raka is, like her, quite untamed. The girl prefers the company of apricot trees and animals to her great-grandmother’s, and spends her afternoons rambling over the mountainside. But the two are more alike than they know. Throughout the hot, long summer, Nanda’s old, hidden dependencies and wounds come to the surface, ending, inevitably, in tragedy. Marvellous yet restrained, Fire on the Mountain speaks of the past and its unshakable hold over the present.
by Rama Mehta
About the book: In this novel the author draws back the curtains on a deeply felt and ongoing tradition. Through the eyes of the main character, Geeta, she goes behind the scenes into a way of life that has long been shrouded in mystery. When Geeta, an educated, outgoing young woman from Bombay, marries into a staunchly traditional family, she suddenly finds herself forced to live in purdah in her husband's ancient home, the haveli. Unable to escape from the conservative customs that now define her life, she struggles to hold on to the modern values she has grown to cherish. Can she discover new meaning and dignity in what at first seems to her a strange and stultifying existence?
by Gilliam Ness
About the book: The Last Labyrinth is a splendid novel — serious, disturbing, lyrical and irresistibly readable, a fascinating exploration into the turbulent inner world of a successful urban India. Som Bhaskar is a millionaire-industrialist, married to a woman of his choice who has borne him two children, yet relentlessly driven by undefined hunger which he unsuccessfully seeks to satisfy by possession — of an object, a business enterprise, a woman. Much like Saul Bellow's Henderson he is always crying, 'I want, I want, I want.' His search taken him from Bombay to Benares, at once holy and repellent — with its narrow, dirty lanes, dancing girls and a mystical aura. Amidst this contrasting juxtaposition of locales, the novel explores the meaning of life and death, illusion and reality, desire and resignation. Here is an eternally contemporary theme with all its complexities; the story's spiritual and sensuous dimensions are interwoven with great finesse making this novel a rare, unforgettable treat. 'The Last Labyrinth is considered an outstanding contribution to Indian English literature for its restless search for a meaning in human existence, its treatment of the multiple levels of reality, challenging narrative technique and an evocative use of language.' — Sahitya Akademi Award Citation 'The story is beautifully written... holds the reader's undivided attention to the finis.' —
by Ryan D'Agostino
About the book: New Delhi, one month after the declaration of the Emergency, is the setting for Nayantara Sahgal's novel Rich Like Us, an ironic, tender and exquisitely crafted study of India and its people in the aftermath of Independence. The Emergency in India meant many things to many people - profit and power for some; jail for others; mobile vasectomy clinics for thousands more. For idealistics like Sonali it meant the end of a dream, the extinguishing of a bright flame of promise for the country's future that had burned since Independence. An unmarried woman, proud of her senior ranking in the civil service, she finds herself demoted and humiliated through a corrupt deal at governmental level. For opportunists like Dev, a beneficiary of the deal, it means a chance to quite his ailing father's business and make it on his own as a leader of the New Entrepreneurs. Sonali's colleague, Ravi Kachru, once a passionate Marxist, makes himself indispensable to the "royal line". Meanwhile, the stubborn shopkeeper, Kishori Lal, bloodied survivor of Partition, lands in a filthy prison cell for a non-existent crime. Rich Like Us is many individual histories, and many voices, in one - a compelling and vivid tapestry of India's past and present. Above all it is the story of Rose the cockney memsahib, brought by the worldly Ram from London forty years before to a family that neither wants nor welcomes her. In Nayantara Sahgal's tale, with its humour and tragedy, is mirrored some of the grandeur and folly of the Indian experience itself.
by Vikram Seth
About the book: Written in verse, this was Vikram Seth's first novel. Set in the 1980s, in the affluence and sunshine of California's silicon valley, it is the story of twenty-somethings looking for love, pleasure and the meaning of life.
by Amitav Ghosh
About the book: From the acclaimed author of Sea of Poppies, a novel weaving history and memory together to create “a rare work that balances formal ingenuity, heart, and mind” (New Republic) Opening in Calcutta in the 1960s, Amitav Ghosh's radiant second novel follows two families—one English, one Bengali—as their lives intertwine in tragic and comic ways. The narrator, Indian born and English educated, traces events back and forth in time, from the outbreak of World War II to the late twentieth century, through years of Bengali partition and violence, observing the ways in which political events invade private lives.
by Deshpande Shashi
About the book: Jaya's life comes apart at the seams when her husband is asked to leave his job while allegations of business malpractice against him are investigated. Her familiar existence disrupted, her husband's reputation in question and their future as a family in jeopardy; Jaya, a failed writer, is haunted by memories of the past. Differences with her husband, frustrations in their seventeen-year-old marriage, disappointment in her two teenage children, the claustrophia of her childhood-all begin to surface. In her small suburban Bombay flat, Jaya grapples with these and other truths about herself-among them her failure at writing and her fear of anger. . . Shashi Deshpande gives us an exceptionally accomplished portrayal of a woman trying to erase a 'long silence' begun in childhood and rooted in herself and in the constraints of her life.