Kalyan Ray’s ambitious novel is an often moving tale about the travails of the abandoned and the uprooted, writes Pradyot Lal in Tehelka
This is at one level a deeply engrossing journey about lives, continents and history. It is also about abandonment, loss of identity and the search for a new life, implying in the process the fact that the universal regime is of course inter-connected.
While telling the story, Kalyan Ray has woven together private histories and real events as he takes us through a multigenerational saga spanning 200 years. The year is 1843 in Sligo, Ireland, where people are starving and small cottages are being torched to punish tenants who cannot afford to pay rent. Two small boys with different backgrounds and persuasions are caught in a situation rendered even more thankless by the historical context.
If the early chapters are like riding a whirlwind, what follows is like being becalmed mid sea, says Sathya Saran in the Outlook
Kalyan Ray speaks in many tongues. The book begins like a film, with a crime scene, viewed narrow-eyed by the investigating officer. With readers conditioned by American crime series, it makes the opening a sure way to grab attention. Then, without warning, the reader is dropped into Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland. In the book-loving, quiet Brenden and his hot-headed friend Padraig, we meet the two boys whose lives will continue through the lives of others, over the next 500 pages. We also encounter what will be a constant—the beauty of Ray’s descriptive prose.
First the bad news. Amitav Ghosh’s last instalment of the Ibis trilogy and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Girl will not be written in 2014.
But there is plenty that will be. After all those years, English August, er, Upamanyu Chatterjee will come up with Fairy Tales at Fifty. Allen Sealy too will be writing the intriguing The Small Wild Goose Pagoda after about a decade and Shashi Tharoor will get back to fiction with Border Crossing. The Lives of Others by Neel Chatterjee, on a Bengali family in decay, No Country by Kalyan Ray, a piece of historical fiction voyaging from New York to Ireland to Bengal to Canada, the much-awaited Idris by Anita Nair and The Gypsy Goddess by Meena Kandaswamy are some of the interesting Indian fiction that will come out soon.