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An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha…

An Atlas of Impossible Longing (2008)

by Anuradha Roy

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I too bought this book by mistake, I was looking instead for Arundathi Roy's God of Small Things. However I believe that it was a mistake I would gladly make again.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, it was beautifully written and draws you in. While I had trouble reading it due to it's slow phase (Spanning three generations of characters) once I got over it, I could not stop. It's melancholic, infused with realism and there isn't a point where I could deny the possibility of it happening in real life. The authoress captured the essence of India perfectly, from the silent and lifeless villages to the bustling, chaotic Calcutta. I liked how she pulled away from a third person perspective to finally introducing the readers to a first person narrative.

There were a few parts though that pained me. The first was how the authoress sift through characters without prior thought, namely Meera and Suleiman Chacha. I would have liked to know more about them, what happened to Meera for instance after she left Songarh. It seemed a little rushed to me but maybe it's the style. The ending was good, bittersweet and nothing too fairy-tale like but I had to think about Mukunda's wife. Yes, given the circumstances, they are technically separated but I don't see the justification in ending the story there without any follow up.

Overall, I found this book to be quite the jewel. ( )
  ZufarIsmailZeid | Nov 20, 2011 |
In this beautiful and melancholic story, we follow several generations of a Bengali family and their intertwining lives. Whoever they are, every character secretly pines for something or someone, but never being able to sever the strong bonds of family and tradition, their lives go on and their longings remain desperately impossible...
This novel is delicately written and lively with colorful characters. Stories of impossible love are always sad, but Anuradha Roy's beautiful narration uncovers the hidden joy of hope in the most desperate situations. ( )
  timtom | Aug 11, 2011 |
When I took note of this book, I had mistook the author as the one who had written The God Of Small Things. In case you are in the same pickle, these are different authors - the other being Arundhati Roy. Close, but not the same. And it becomes obvious when I opened to the first page of An Atlas Of Impossible Longing when typical prose greets me instead of the lyrical joie de vivre of words that The God Of Small Things had.

But this is not supposed to be a comparison piece. So I'll get on with the review of An Atlas Of Impossible Longing now:

The story unfolds slowly - and while there had been a cast of characters at the beginning, I still got a little lost with putting names to the characters. It was especially hard to learn everyone's names since I was unfamiliar with them and could not tell between male and female names. Once the characters started to distinguish themselves by personality, I was able to focus more on the story and therefore dive into the dominant characters' inner conflicts.

An Atlas Of Impossible Longing is a story full of longing - for love, for attention, for respect, for revenge, for money, for comfort, for things that may never fall within one's grasp. As I got to know the characters better, their desires and needs swept me away like the river that acted as a catalyst for changing the family dynamics. I don't know much about Indian culture, but I am always shocked at how stifled / passive-aggressive / unfair things can be for both women and men, poor and rich, young and old, parent and child.

It was interesting to watch as the children - Bakul and Mukunda - grow up into their adult selves. I wish we had gained more insight of Bakul, but the story instead gives us the first-person perspective of Mukunda in Part 3. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated Mukunda's thoughts - but he is male, and I think that gave him a little leg up in the world than Bakul who has more limitations as a female.

While this is not the usual reading I go for, I am glad that I stuck with it because the story is truly well worth the journey. A slow start that does not seem to have a reason, but each character's yearning builds as the pages turn and I became anxious to see if they would become stagnant or finally find what they were looking for.

I can definitely see An Atlas Of Impossible Longing providing great food-for-thought in book clubs and classrooms. ( )
1 vote theepicrat | Apr 16, 2011 |
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"Roy's impressive American debut covers multiple generations of an Indian family from the turn of the 20th century to India's partition. Three distinct sections revolve around Amulya, who runs an herbal medicine and fragrance business; his mentally ill wife, Kananbala, who spies on the goings-on of her English neighbors from the room Amulya keeps her locked in; their sons, Kamal and Nirmal; their wives; Nirmal's daughter Bakul, whose mother died in childbirth; and finally Mukunda, an orphan that Amulya helps support, at which point Nirmal brings Mukunda home as a companion for Bakul. Tales weave backward and forward, and characters wallow in their longings, occasionally taking action; Mukunda and Bakul form a lasting bond that doesn't change with their circumstances. The book unfolds in third person until the final section, when Mukunda steps in as narrator to provide a welcome personal perspective on years of events. Roy is especially good at sensory description, making the sounds, smells, and feel of Bengal come vividly to life. Cultures may differ, but longing and love are universal." --Publishers weekly.… (more)

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