In this novel of political activisim in 1960s Calcutta, Mukherjee’s writing has fluent precision and a fine ear for the chaos of family life: New Statesman
Neel Mukherjee’s first novel, the prize-winning A Life Apart, had as its protagonist a young man, Ritwik Ghosh, who left the clamour of his extended family in Calcutta for a life of hazardous solitude. Mukherjee’s second novel plunges the reader directly into the maelstrom of Bengali family life that Ritwik fled. The protagonist of The Lives of Others is not an individual but the many-headed hydra of the (unrelated) Ghosh clan. Once wealthy, the family is now in decline but it remains prosperous enough to occupy a large house in Bhowanipore, a genteel neighbourhood of Calcutta, where the days are spent in tireless spiteful intrigue.