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The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

The Far Field

by Madhuri Vijay

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In Madhuri Vijay's 'The Far Field' a young woman named Kalyani explores the fraught and tender relationship between herself and her mother, and the roots of a tragedy. This debut novel is astonishing in its ambition and in how it succeeds.

Following her mother's death, Kalyani leaves her privileged life in Bangalore for Kashmir, still scarred from the insurgencies of the 1980s and 90s. She seeks to find the man who was her mother's only friend. Her quest, and its consequences, matched with lucid prose makes for an engrossing and accomplished novel.

Kalyani is a young woman with little experience of the outside world, her circle at home, in college, and her stunted professional life, was limited by class and the trappings of a comfortable existence. Her mother was the only one who ever seemed to buck convention, and it was her that she lost the most touch with as she grew older.

The novel is told from the future, a world-weary and wiser Kalyani recalling her role in the events of the past. This tone lends the whole book weight as the reader follows this seemingly innocent quest of finding a missing person.

There are many fantastic books coming out this season, but this has become my favorite. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 21, 2019 |
Shalini reflects on events that took place soon after her mother's death. Feeling adrift, she travels to Kashmir in search of a man who had been friendly with her mother during Shalini's childhood. Will he have the answers she seeks?

The first few pages of the story had me intrigued and wondering exactly what was the story behind Shalini's mother and Bashir Ahmed, the traveling salesman from Kashmir. Shalini starts out an innocent, seeing things through a very childlike perspective, and only as she meets people from the towns who have experienced some of the violence between their family members and the Indian army does she realize events she thought she understood may not be so black and white. The author has a way with descriptions and I enjoyed how she paints a picture of small scenes with words. The plot, though, seemed a little lacking, a lot of secrecy and build up to final revelations that either fell flat for me (I'd already figured some out) or just made me angry. ( )
  bell7 | Feb 15, 2019 |
"I am aware that I am taking no risks by recounting any of this, that, for people like me, safe and protected, even the greatest risk is, ultimately, an indulgence. I am aware of the likely futility of all that I have told here, and, I am aware, too, of the thousand ways I have tried to excuse myself in the telling of it. All the same, whatever the flaws of this story or confession or whatever it has turned out to be, let it stand."

After the death of her mother, Shalini, a privileged young woman from Bangalore, sets out on a journey to Kashmir in northern India to find Bashir Ahmed, a Kashmiri salesman who was a frequent visitor to her home when she was young and who she thinks might have something to do with the loss of her mother. Once there, she finds that the region of Kashmir is on edge, with turmoil and violence threatening to erupt at any moment. She stays with a family in a remote village and quickly becomes entangled in their lives; but, she soon finds the closer she grows to them, the more she threatens both their safety and their way of life.

There were so many layers to this book – the politics of Kashmir, the relationship Shalini had with her mother, her journey to find Bashir Ahmed, etc. – but more than anything, I felt that this book was about privilege and its costs. Shalini makes clear from the beginning that, on this journey of self-discovery, she made a lot of mistakes. Although she had often had good intentions, her naivety was destructive, often in unforeseen ways. Others had to pay the cost for her privilege, and while she acknowledges this, she also says that, no matter what she does, “It will make no difference in the end.”

Overall, this book floored me. It was so unexpectedly beautiful and devastating and memorable – and to think, I only picked this up on a whim. The writing was gorgeous and evocative that even the slow parts moved along. The author wrote well-developed multi-faceted characters that utterly invested me in their stories. Not to mention the fact that the cover is striking (if unassuming). Even the narrator of the audiobook was phenomenal: her narration was a completely immersive experience that added an additional layer to the story. Everything combined made this into an unforgettable book that will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for a copy of this eBook in exchange for an honest review.

https://allisonsadventuresintowonderlands.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/madhuri-vijay... ( )
1 vote Allison_Krajewski | Feb 6, 2019 |
This made me want to scream. The main character is so frustrating. The subtitle could be “how I went on a life changing journey and learned nothing!” ( )
  bradylouie | Jan 14, 2019 |
The Far Field is the story of Shalini, a privileged your woman who travels from her home in Bangalore to a remote Kashmiri village in search of Bashir Ahmed, the man who beguiled her and her mother while she was a child before the Hindu-Muslim conflicts in Kashmir ended his visits. Her mother died recently and she feels desperate to see him again.

She does not know where he lives but remembers a story that brings her to Kishtwar where she stays with Abdul and Zoya who say they will help her find Bashir Ahmed. Over time she comes to love and admire them and learns their son was taken by the Indian Army and never heard from again. After a time, Bashir Ahmed’s son Riyaz comes to tell her his father is dead, but Zoya and Abdul encourage her to go to his village anyway. She does, becoming friends with Riyaz’ wife.

Meanwhile, in the narrative of her past, we realize that Bashir Ahmed, despite being an itinerant peddler was able to reach her mother more deeply than anyone else. Her mother exemplifies the bitterness of a brilliant woman denied an education. She is bold, defiant, loud, and captivating to both her husband and her daughter who orient their lives to her changeable moods.

The Far Field is an ambitious novel weaving together the complex family conflicts of parents and child with the political and ethnic strife between Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir. It is also a story of a reckless and feckless idle young woman who feels deeply and befriends people who she betrays in ignorance of the world and how it works. It is illuminating, I think, that she is happiest when she is helping, sorting invoices for Zoya’s group, tutoring Muhammed Din’s daughter, milking Amina’s cow, or cutting hay with Rayiz’ mother. She lacks purpose.

Though circumstances and actions differ, she reminds me of Adela Quested. Like Adela, she seeks friendship across ethnic and religious boundaries at a time of upheaval and like Adela, leaves havoc in her wake.

The Far Field is a book about telling stories and there are several storytellers. First, there is our narrator Shalini telling the story of her childhood and her travels in Kashmir, weaving the two narratives together, going back and forth in time. Then there is Bashir Ahmed, the Kashmiri salesman whose stories enchant Shalini and her mercurial mother. When she gets to Kashmir, there is another storyteller, Mohammed Din, whose benevolence hides many secrets. There are so many stories to tell.

The Far Field will be released January 15th by Grove Atlantic. I received an e-galley for review from the publisher through Edelweiss.

The Far Field at Grove Atlantic
Madhuri Vijay author site

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/9780802128409/ ( )
1 vote Tonstant.Weader | Jan 5, 2019 |
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