by Anjali Joseph - £8.99 HarperCollins Publishers (Fourth Estate (2011)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780007360789 | ISBN 10: 0007360789
A tremendous first novel from an exciting young author recently chosen as one of the Telegraph’s ‘20 under 40’ best UK writers.
Famous for its electric chaos, the city of Bombay also accommodates pockets of calm. In one such space works Mohan, a contemplative man who has spent his life observing people from his seat as a letter-writer outside the main post office. But Mohan's lack of engagement with the world has caused a thawing of his marriage. At this delicate moment Mohan – and his wife, Lakshmi – are joined at their home in Saraswati Park by their nephew, Ashish, a sexually uncertain 19-year-old who has to repeat his final year in college.
As the novel unfolds, the lives of each of the three characters are thrown into relief by the comical frustrations of family life: annoying relatives, unspoken yearnings and unheard grievances. When Lakshmi loses her only brother, she leaves Bombay for a relative's home to mourn not only the death of a sibling but also the vital force of her marriage. Ashish, meanwhile, embarks on an affair with a much richer boy in his college and, not long afterwards, succumbs to the overtures of his English tutor. As Mohan scribbles away in the margins of the sort of books he secretly hopes to write one day, he worries about whether his wife will return, what will become of Ashish, and if he himself will ever find his own voice to write from the margins about the centre of which he will never be a part.
(Price & availability last checked: February 2019)