Friday, October 8, 2010

New novelist

By Tracy

I've just finished reading Saraswati Park by debut novelist Anjali Joseph (born 1978).

This was a birthday gift, nothing to do with my studies, except of course that it's a novel -- so I read it for pleasure.

It's a quiet novel whose atmosphere certainly drew me in, though I was disappointed that the back-cover blurb tells practically the whole plot (such plot as there is -- this is a mood-driven and character-driven book).

Middle-aged Mohan, a letter-writer, lives in reasonable comfort and calm with his wife Lakshmi in Bombay/Mumbai. They are at that stage where children have left home and an uneasy distance has crept up between husband and wife, though it takes a while for Mohan to realise this.

Their nephew Ashish comes to live with them because though his parents have moved away on account of work, Ashish must repeat his final year of college because of under-attendance.

Ashish has his own emotional (and sexual) life unknown to his uncle and aunt; the novel moves between his story and that of his uncle's marriage and daily life.

The writing is poised and observant, the characters credible -- and for a first novel, it's quite subtle and sophisticated in approach.

If you don't like very slow-paced or middle-class-style fiction, it won't be your thing. Ignore the back cover if you want to make the most of its developments...

The UK's Telegraph listed Anjali Joseph as one of their "20 best novelists under 40", for what that kind of list is worth.

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