All the Lives We Never Lived
Original title: All the Lives We Never Lived
Publisher: MacLehose Press, 2018
Pages: 320 pages
A novel that spans India’s twentieth century from the 1930s through Independence to the 1990s – by the Man Booker longlisted author of Sleeping on Jupiter.
”In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman. The man was in fact German, but in small-town India in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as British.”
So begins the story of Myshkin and his mother Gayatri, its rebellious, alluring artist-heroine who is driven to abandon home and marriage and follow her primal instinct for freedom.
Freedom of another kind is in the air across all of India, and in Germany the Nazis have come to power. At this point of crisis, a German artist from Gayatri’s past seeks her out. His arrival ignites passions she has long been forced to suppress.
What follows is Gayatri’s life as pieced together by her son, a journey that takes him through India and Dutch-held Bali. Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, he comes to understand the connections between volcanic strife at home and a war-torn universe overtaken by patriotism.
The scale of Anuradha Roy’s novel is matched by its power as a parable for our times. Its depiction of the contrasting ideas of Gandhi and Tagore, of the limits of nationalism when confronted by cosmopolitanism, makes it a spell-binding saga centred on people trying to make sense of their lives.
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