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An Atlas of Impossible Longing [Hardcover]

Anuradha Roy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Jun 2008

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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: MacLehose Press; UK First Edition; 1st Printing edition (5 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847244777
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847244772
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 14.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,030,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A story to lose yourself in ... Anuradha Roy is a wonderful writer ... this tale of three generations of an Indian family, set over the span of the 20th century, is brilliantly told' Sunday Express.

'A lyrical love letter to India's past - an India of innocent child brides and jasmine-scented summer evenings. Poetic and evocative. Roy's writing is a joy' Financial Times.

'Written with a soaring yet impeccably balanced lyricism, Roy's prose does not hit a single wrong note: its restrained beauty sings off the page. Above all, the book has an elusive quality, so absent from the contemporary novel, a quality that can only be described as grace' Time magazine.

From the Inside Flap

Anuradha Roy's epic story of a Bengali family in the twentieth century begins on the edge of a mud-brown river in spate; swollen and menacing, infinitely destructive. Here, in a place of intense colours and spicy scents, where jasmines bloom in suburbia and the tiger's roar carries through the heavy nights, a family, new to town, makes small-talk over dinner. Beneath their trickle of chit-chat, deep currents surge. Nirmal dreams of happiness with a widowed cousin that cannot be; his motherless daughter, Bakul, thinks only of escaping the tedium of dinner. She wants to be running wild with Mukunda, an orphan of unknown caste adopted by the family. In a room at the top of the house, the matriarch babbles nonsense, gleefully shrieking obscenities at the top of her voice. Meanwhile, Amulya, the weary patriarch, shapes and reshapes his exquisite garden while his dynasty crumbles around him. Anuradha Roy writes with a rhythm that seduces its reader into an intricate, enchanting tale of a family's love and longing, rejection and acceptance, conformity and rebellion. Her story is heartbreaking in its nostalgia for what is vanishing for ever, and its yearning for what may never come.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting 16 May 2012
By Hilary
I had never heard of Anuradha Roy when I picked up this book, but I am glad to have found her. Reading the book is like being transported to the India she describes, with all its sights, sounds and smells. The story alludes to the effects of many old Indian customs (which may well still exist) and, while the impact of these often blights people's lives, this is not a dreary book. The tone of the book is gentle and sympathetic. I believe Anuradha Roy likes her characters, despite all their idiosyncrasies and failings. I liked them too. This is a writer I will look out for in the future.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Longing for something more 13 April 2010
This book was chosen for our book club. Whilst it had some wonderful descriptions it didn't really deliver on the plot and when it began to get interesting, an affair, a murder it then tailed off to nothing. There are two sets of main characters and the forbidden love between the older two was the more engaging storyline.

The pace of the book was gentle and slow and wasn't really engaging for me, however, it has piqued my interest in India.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting new take on the family dynamic... 7 July 2008
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roy 'draws you in' 6 Nov 2012
By k.kushi
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had vaguely heard of Anuradha Roy before buying this book and decided to take a chance when I saw it on the kindle list...and am very glad I did! It's not Roy's shortcoming but my own, as I generally like a fast paced story, which meant I found the descriptive writing slowing me down at times, although it was beautifully written...the second half of the book moved at a better pace for me. I enjoyed getting to know the different characters and their relationships and loved being transported to an older India, where some of the traditional human qualities like respect for elders, sense of loyalty and responsibility towards parents, children and others still prevailed, alongside some of the less admirable ones driven by total self-interest and greed to gain through the tragic misfortunes of others. Roy slowly but surely pulled me into the book, to a point where I couldn't bear to put it down late into the night(until my batteries life died)and finished it in a few days. A great read, recommend it highly!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Atlas of Impossible learning 5 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This story, so typical of India & Indian life was a pleasure to read. Not fast moving but then that's India. It really did give an insight into the way of life & the frustrating (to westerners)obstacles to everyday life.
A really 'difficult to put down'story so beautifully told.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An atlas of impossible longing ! 17 Oct 2011
This is one of my favourite books and well worth a reread . It transported me to a different world. it gave me a new insight into Indian history and culture .
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting story 6 April 2011
By Lulu
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read this novel and be enchanted by the story which makes you feel as if you too are part of their lives in Bengal.I was unable to put this book down and am looking forward to read more from this author.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but not 'epic' 21 July 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anuradha Roy's book is really two books in one - 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. However, the chief protagonists the lovers Mukunda and Bakul never really come alive and their love affair does not hook the emotions - it is almost secondary to the setting and background and it shouldn't be. Its not that the lovers are cardboard cutouts, they are simply not three dimensional enough. Bakul is also rather flatly drawn as an adult (although his story is gripping) And we never really understand why the Bengali family has financially supported Mukunda all these years.
The British family the Barnums, particularly Mrs Barnum are also not fleshed out as well as they could be. This could well be because dialogue is not the Author's forte. Everyone, whether Bengalis or British, speak in the same mocking tones to eachother within the household, and it is difficult to distinguish between individuals sometimes.
These flaws deprive the book of the depth and epic quality it could have had.
Even so there is much to enjoy in this book. I particularly like the sense of decay and past glories, and the story in the second half is fast-paced and very readable. (even if what Bakul did with the house deeds was a bit of a cop-out). I'd have given it 3.5 stars if that were possible because it was a good read.
Oh, and the title of the book is so pretentious.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful story. I couldn't put it down. I have read two novels by this author both equally good.
Published 4 days ago by Maureen A Cox
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I loved everything about this book, especially the last line.
Published 2 months ago by WWTDD
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and Beautifully Written
I rarely give 5 stars as a rating but I loved this book. I have also recommended it to others who have really enjoyed it too. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Monaghan
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Find
This book was a cheap Kindle buy and what a wonderful choice it turned out to be. Very occasionally you discover a book which in normal circumstances you would never have chanced... Read more
Published 11 months ago by jazzy2
4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyed this! engrossed in it till the end.
Beautifully written love story. I had never read any of Anuradhapura Roy's books before. Look forward to the next one.
Published 16 months ago by Sharon
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
This is so beautifully written, I could feel the heat, smell the flowers and taste the food. The characters are all believable and the story unwinds gently.
Published 17 months ago by P. Wheeler
5.0 out of 5 stars Smell the swamp and the spices
This is a wonderful book which captivated me immediately. One can almost smell the muddy river, the cooking spices and feel the oppressive heat of the Indian summer. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Macc Lass
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though it wasn't what I would normally choose. It was however a bit predictable
Published 18 months ago by Jenny Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting title tht does not disappoint.
A quaint story reflecting the complications India's Bengali culture.
Set in rural Bengal outside Calcutta (now Kolkata) the story depicts the trials and tribulations of a... Read more
Published on 28 Aug 2012 by M. Ray
4.0 out of 5 stars Map Reading
An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy is a three-generational saga set in the west of India during the first half of the 20th century. Read more
Published on 20 Aug 2012 by boingboing
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