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Partitions by Amit Majmudar
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Partitions (2011)

by Amit Majmudar

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11019109,733 (4.06)54
Recently added byprivate library, kara.shamy, gbill, CharlaOppenlander, kruseds1, fitakyre, Clara53, aswinreadr
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    Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa (sailorfigment)
    sailorfigment: Also about the separation of India and Pakistan.
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Partitions grabs you right from the beginning, with two small Hindu boys getting separated from their mother on a train amidst the chaos resulting from the creation of Pakistan (Land ‘stan’ of the Pure ‘pak’) in 1947. The division of Punjab along a somewhat arbitrary line results in Hindus being attacked on the Pakistan side by people they had lived side by side with for years, and then fleeing as refugees, and vice versa, with hate feeding on hate. In the absence of law and order, all sense of decency vanishes, and there is abduction, slavery, murder, and unspeakable cruelty.

The story is told in simple prose and through the voice of the ghost of the deceased father of the boys, who swirls around them and the other main characters, an aging Muslim doctor and a young Sikh woman who has fled from her father, who intended to kill her out of mercy rather than see her converted to Islam and defiled. All three major religions in the region are thus represented in the protagonists, and their stories eventually intersect.

Majmudar writes with honesty throughout the book, example of which are in his character’s expression of their inward feelings of caste and hatred. It’s a touching story that does not dwell on evil or cast judgment, and I liked it. It would have been nice to have a glossary for the terms used, some of which I had to look up. The events start to get a little coincidental towards the end, but Majmudar finishes his story in a balanced, very poignant way that gave me chills. ( )
3 vote gbill | Apr 5, 2014 |
Incredibly powerful and emotionally charged debut novel from Amit Majmudar. Beautiful prose. A story full of grief, the theme being the partition of India and creation of Pakistan and the horrors that the process involved. The book's lyricism betrays a poet behind the lines, and I detect on the cover that the author was an award-winning poet before he became a writer, which, in its turn, is not his primary career either - he is a diagnostic nuclear radiologist, believe it or not... His writing style in this novel strongly reminds me of another favorite author, Andrei Makine.

There are books after reading which you wholeheartedly give them 5 stars, no doubts or hesitation or weighing pros and cons. This is such a book. I got introduced to this author by Librarything Early Reviewers - by reviewing his second novel, "The Abundance", which was also excellent (looking back - what a lucky chance I had spotted it!), but "Partitions" surpasses it, it simply shines. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Feb 28, 2014 |
Partitions
By Amit Majmudar
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Published In: New York City, NY, USA
Date: 2011
Pgs: 211

REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Summary:
It’s 1947 and British India is rending itself into two nations in the beginning of its postcolonial future: Pakistan, India. Communal violence breaks out as refugees move to their side of the raw border amidst fire and death. And a small set of characters face a race against time, a dance against the rushing tide of history, to find a place, a safe place, a place to stand before the darkness in the hearts of men sweep them away.

Genre:
fiction, historical drama, tragedy

Why this book:
It was priced right and the story interested me from the start.

This Story is About:
courage, facing the tide of history, surviving

Favorite Character:
Dr. Roshan Jaitly, Keshav and Shankar’s father, or his ghost anyway as he plays omnipresent narrator moving us back and forth across Pakistan and India’s fractured frontier.
Simran Kaur acting to save herself while failing to save her little sister. Powerful character.

Least Favorite Character:
The jackals in human form who preyed on the weak and the helpless.

Character I Most Identified With:
Dr. Ibrahim Masud. He spends the story doing what he thinks is right regardless of culture or the dangers imposed by the changing countryside around him.

The Feel:
The world of the book is unravelling around the characters. The feel of a leaf blown on the winds of history is well communicated here.

Favorite Scene:
Simran Kaur’s last family gathering is very powerful. The fear of what could be coming. The peer pressure on her father. And the horrible, unthinkable option that becomes thinkable to them in those times.
The scene when Simran emerges from her home the next morning after her midnight return. The Brothers Ali discussing whether she is returned to life when viewing her soaked in the blood from where she had lain herself down between her mother and siblings in the death room. And the superstition flashing outward through their village and the surrounding villages providing her with safe passage through that area even though all of her people have either fled or been killed during the intervening hours when she was, first, hiding, and, then, sleeping beside her mother’s corpse.

Settings:
India, Pakistan, Punjab, train station, pediatrician’s office, Kaur family home, the refugee camps

Pacing:
The pacing is excellent

Plot Holes/Out of Character:
As I approached the end, I was wondering if Keshav and Shankar’s mother’s fate was what it appeared to be. It was an open end. I’m glad that the author gave the reader the closure rather than leaving it as it was. Though, it would have worked both ways.

Last Page Sound:
Excellent.

Author Assessment:
I would read more stuff from Amit Majmudar.

Editorial Assessment:
Tightly done.

Did the Book Cover Reflect the Story:
Not so well. It does focus on the opening scene with Keshav and Shankar, but that is just the opening of a sweeping story. A burning map of post-British Pakistan and India would have been a better wrapper for the story.

Song the Story Reminds me of or That Plays in my Head While Reading:
Subdivision by Rush

Illustrations:
No

Hmm Moments:
The moment when the rioters poured the kerosene over the boy and started striking matches.

Knee Jerk Reaction:
really good book, glad I read it

Disposition of Book:
Half Price Book stack

Why isn’t there a screenplay?
Could make a great Lifetime movie. Not sure that it would draw enough people to the big screen.

Casting call:
I would see Ben Kingsley in the role of Masud, but I feel that he is too old for the role.

Would love to see Kunal Nayyar stretch beyond comedy in the role of one of the guys on the truck stealing refugee girls away from their families to sell into slavery. Not sure that he can do evil. The only turn where I’ve seen him try something like that was when he played a garage terrorist on an episode of NCIS, but that was more a cameo than anything where he had to act. Also, not sure which role he would fill, Ayub, Saif, or Qasim. Ayub is a harder core character while Saif is just there. Qasim would be a larger role and more active role with a wider range of emotion.

Would recommend to:
historiophiles, Indiaphiles, those who can’t look away from tragedy ( )
  texascheeseman | Oct 28, 2013 |
A moving book, beautifully written by a poet. I finished it last night and its mood and beauty continue to resonate. Partitions tells of the horrors of 1947 but its three stories or perspectives of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh characters are well-balanced and deeply moving. Majumdar's writing is lyrical, conveys a tender and wrenching tone, and maintaining a profound sense of humanity. He showcases his characters' vulnerablity, strength, and beauty as they struggle to survive the confusion, violence and worst motives of others.

I cannot adequately describe how I did not want the reading pleasure to end, despite the profoundly difficult setting (time and place) of this book.

I'm now on a mission to get ahold of his newly-released Abundance http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15794111-the-abundance. ( )
  ming.l | Mar 31, 2013 |
It's very difficult for me to imagine let alone understand the animus that led to the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947 following the withdrawal of British authority from the subcontinent. The violence that accompanied partition defies understanding. One can only ask how could this happen without the expectation of an answer.

To his credit, Amit Majmudar does not seek to explain that violence in his novel Partitions. Instead, he presents a portrayal of three sets of people, two Hindo brothers trying to find their mother and flee Pakistan, a Muslim doctor driven out of India and a Sikh girl forced to flee her doomed family for the home she hopes to find at the Golden Temple of Armritsar.

What emerges from the novel is a portrait of the chaos that followed partition. Millions of people forced to leave their homelands, most unable to take anything with them, many facing violent opposition driving them out and trying to stop their escape.

It's hard for someone living in the Bay Area in 2011 to understand what happened. What could drive someone to light a ten-year-old boy on fire? How could anyone participate in gang raping a pre-pubescent girl? Why would anyone drive out the local doctor who brought generations of children into the world? It's probably just as hard to imagine for many people living in South Asia today as well. The past is a foreign country after all.

C.J. is reading Angels of Our Better Nature by Steven Pinker. Mr. Pinker's thesis is that violence has been on a steady decline throughout human history. From the details C.J. has passed along to me, Mr. Pinker makes a strong case. We think of the 20th century as an incredibly violent time period. Two world wars, the Holocaust, the Stalinist purges, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, all make the partitioning of India look like a relatively minor bad patch. Mr. Pinker argues that over the scope of human history, the 20th century wasn't really all that bad. He makes a very good case, too. I hope he's right. I hope the violence that occurred in Partition and in events like it will soon be strictly the stuff of novels.

After reading Mr. Majmudar's novel, I cannot boast a better understanding of either why partitioning happened nor why so many people behaved so abominably during it. I can say that I have a better understanding of what it was to live through that event. By presenting four characters who survived events none of them understood, Mr. Majmudar gives his readers what every good novelist does, a bit of insight into the lives of others, a slightly greater sense of community with the human race. I know I'm venturing into territory even I would label as cheesy, but Partitions moved me much more than I expected. That's a fitting tribute to those who went through the partitioning of India, and to those who didn't survive. ( )
  CBJames | Jul 5, 2012 |
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Epigraph
Leave India to God.
-M.K. Gandhi, May 1942
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This is the sadhu.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805093958, Hardcover)

A stunning first novel, set during the violent 1947 partition of India, about uprooted children and their journeys to safety

As India is rent into two nations, communal violence breaks out on both sides of the new border and streaming hordes of refugees flee from blood and chaos.

At an overrun train station, Shankar and Keshav, twin Hindu boys, lose sight of their mother and join the human mass to go in search of her. A young Sikh girl, Simran Kaur, has run away from her father, who would rather poison his daughter than see her defiled. And Ibrahim Masud, an elderly Muslim doctor driven from the town of his birth, limps toward the new Muslim state of Pakistan, rediscovering on the way his role as a healer. As the displaced face a variety of horrors, this unlikely quartet comes together, defying every rule of self-preservation to forge a future of hope.

A dramatic, luminous story of families and nations broken and formed, Partitions introduces an extraordinary novelist who writes with the force and lyricism of poetry.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:27 -0400)

As India is rent into two nations, communal violence breaks out on both sides of the new border and streaming hordes of refugees flee from blood and chaos. At an overrun train station, Shankar and Keshav, twin Hindu boys, lose sight of their mother and join the human mass to go in search of her. A young Sikh girl, Simran Kaur, has run away from her father, who would rather poison his daughter than see her defiled. And Ibrahim Masud, an elderly Muslim doctor driven from the town of his birth, limps toward the new Muslim state of Pakistan, rediscovering on the way his role as a healer. As the displaced face a variety of horrors, this unlikely quartet comes together, defying every rule of self-preservation to forge a future of hope.… (more)

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