The story is of three generations of an Indian family, brilliantly told, in which a sensitive and intelligent foundling boy orphan who is casteless and without religion and Bakul, the motherless granddaughter of the house, grow up together. The boy, Mukunda, spends his time as a servant in the house or reading the books of Mrs Barnum, an Anglo-Englishwoman whose life was saved long ago by Bakul’s grandmother, by now demented by loneliness. Mrs Barnum gives Mukunda the run of her house, but as he and Bakul grow, they become aware that their intense closeness is becoming something else, and Bakul’s father is warned to separate them. He banishes Mukunda to a school in Calcutta, where in the years after Partition he prospers, and whence in time he will return to rediscover all that he has lost.The novel begins in 1907 with the founding of a factory in Songarh, a small provincial town where narrow attitudes prevail. Amulya and Kananbala have two sons and as their family grows, and the house and their garden too, a microcosm of a society develops. It is scholarly, eccentric, hide-bound, fraught with drama, destined to self-destruct. The many strands of this intensely-fashioned narrative converge when Mukunda, by now a successful businessman, returns to Songarh years after he has been exiled from the only home he knew, to resolve the family’s destiny.
My Review :
Anuradha Roy is a wonderful writer and this tale of three generations of an Indian family, set over the span of the 20th century, is brilliantly told…
Let me first tell you all, I am a Bengali girl from West Bengal, India, so you can only imagine how familiar the setting is to me , though currently these family dynamics as told in the story doesn’t exist anymore (globalization people !!!) but the early and to some extent till the mid -part of 20th century the social setting of Bengal was more or less as depicted by Ms. Roy , whether you like it or not !!!
The first part with an omnipresent narrator, the history of the Bengali family in Songarh during the early part of the 20th century, in British times, the second in the first person told from the perspective of the orphan Mukunda in adulthood.
The first part is atmospheric and evocative and has an authentic feel of times past, the second part is tense and gripping in its story line.
When the friendship between Bakul, a young girl without her mother, and Makunda, an orphan of lower caste, blossoms, Bakul’s strict father is determined to keep them apart and sends Mukunda to school in Calcutta. This is a decision no reader can agree with, the depiction of the connection between the pair entrancing. It is a relief then, when Mukunda returns to the family he was sent away from several years later, having proved his worth in the world of business. But he is too late to prevent the divisions among the family from deepening, and the narrative begins to address the wider concerns of a crumbling empire with subtlety and verve. This is a magical book addressing the worries and frustrations of three generations of a Bengali family that is desperately attempting to preserve its image.