Here's following a thought. Since I enjoyed Alison McQueen's Under the Jeweled Sky so much (and how often do I do this . . . and this is why I end up with so many books in progress) I am now in the mood to read more about India, something either set in India or about India or Indian characters living somewhere else--either fiction or nonfiction.
To that end I have come up with a reading list (because you really can never have too many good books lists at the ready) to draw from. All these books are on my shelves somewhere. I've read a couple of them already, a few I've owned for ages and a few others are more recent acquisitions. I'd like to pick one of these up now and begin reading, but I know I really need to finish a few other books before jumping into a new story. So, we'll see if I can avoid the temptation or not. In any case it is always fun thinking about something new to read.
So a baker's dozen of books about India today:
The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye -- "From its beginning in the foothills of the towering Himalayas, M.M. Kaye's masterwork is a vast, rich and vibrant tapestry of love and war that ranks with the greatest panoramic sagas of modern fiction."
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth -- " A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence." Last year I started reading this for the second time--I got further than my first attempt--page 155. I still want to read it, but it's a book that really requires complete attention and steady reading.
Leela's Book by Alice Albinia -- "In her fiction debut, Alice Albinia weaves a multithreaded epic tale that encompasses divine saga and familial discord and introduces an unforgettable heroine."
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald -- "Holy Cow is Macdonald’s often hilarious chronicle of her adventures in a land of chaos and contradiction, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis and Bollywood stars. From spiritual retreats and crumbling nirvanas to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs, it is a journey that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life—and her sanity—can survive."
Madras on Rainy Days by Sanina Ali -- "A lyrical debut (Asian Week) exploring the dilemma confronting Layla, a second generation Indian-American Muslim."
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri -- "The New York Times has praised Lahiri as "a writer of uncommon elegance and poise." The Namesake is a fine-tuned, intimate, and deeply felt novel of identity."
Gifted by Nikita Lalwani -- I read this one when it first came out (was longlisted for the Booker) and wrote about it here. "In her stunningly eloquent debut novel, Nikita Lalwani pits a parent’s dream against a child’s. Deftly pondering the complexities and consequences that accompany the best intentions, Gifted explores just how far one person will push another, and how much can be endured, in the name of love."
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster -- "Among the greatest novels of the twentieth century and the basis for director David Lean’s Academy Award-winning film, A Passage to India tells of the clash of cultures in British India after the turn of the century. In exquisite prose, Forster reveals the menace that lurks just beneath the surface of ordinary life, as a common misunderstanding erupts into a devastating affair." Have yet to read the book and never seen the movie--must remedy that on both counts!
The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj by Anne de Courcy -- "Rich with drama and color, The Fishing Fleet is a sumptuous, utterly compelling real-life saga of adventure, romance, and heartbreak in the heyday of the British Empire." Just recently acquired this one and have read a few novels with this subject--I'm hoping this is anecdotal--a social history of the period.
The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri -- I read this in pre-blogging days for a book club and was surprised by how much I liked it (apparently I was not expecting to). I have ever since been meaning to read one of his more recent books. "Blending incisive comedy with Hindu mythology and a dash of Bollywood sparkle, The Death of Vishnu is an intimate and compelling view of an unforgettable world."
Lilla's Feast: A True Story of Love, War, and a Passion for Food by Frances Osborne -- "Lilla’s Feast is a rich evocation of a bygone world, the inspiring story of an ordinary woman who tackled the challenges life threw in her path with an extraordinary determination." If I were to start reading one of these books I am sort of leaning towards this one!
The River by Rumer Godden -- "The River is Rumer Godden's beautiful tribute to India and childhood, made into a film by Jean Renoir.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry -- I've heard more than one person call this an exceptional read and in a few cases a favorite book! "With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India."
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And a few extra because I seem to have lots of books in this category and couldn't quite decide (the real list is actually longer, but I have to stop somewhere . . .)
Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki -- "With this spellbinding first novel about the destructive lies three immigrant generations of a Pakistani/Bangladeshi family tell each other, Roopa Farooki adds a fresh new voice to the company of Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri and Arudhati Roy." And if I was going to pick a novel to read, it would be this one, I think.
Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee -- "n Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee has created a heroine as exotic and unexpected as the many worlds in which she lives. 'Rich…one of the most suggestive novels we have about what it is to become an American'." -- The New York Times Book Review
The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott -- "The Jewel in the Crown opens in 1942 as the British fear both Japanese invasion and Indian demands for independence. On the night after the Indian Congress Party votes to support Ghandi, riots break out and an ambitious police sargeant arrests a young Indian for the alleged rape of the woman they both love."
Are there any books I have missed and really should have on my list? Or are any of these particularly wonderful and I should read them sooner rather than later?