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Clear Light Of Day Paperback – 1 Mar 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (1 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099276186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099276180
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 80,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Clear Light of Day is an examination of contemporary India and a family history in which two sisters, Bim and Tara, learn that, although there will always be family scars, the ability to forgive and forget is a powerful ally against life's sorrows. Twenty years ago when Tara married, she left Old Delhi and a home full of sickness and death, while Bim continued to live in the family home taking care of their autistic brother, Baba. Now Tara has returned, her first visit in 10 years, for their niece's wedding. Bim refuses to attend; she can't visit their brother Raja who, like Tara, left her many years ago. Instead Bim dwells bitterly on her feelings of abandonment and the impact on her of her country's recent history: the violent conflict between Hindus and Muslims, the death of Gandhi and the ensuing struggle for political power and the malaria epidemic that killed so many. In Bim's presence, Tara once again feels "herself shrink into that small miserable wretch of 20 years ago, both admiring and resenting her tall striding sister", while "Bim was calmly unaware of any of her sister's agonies, past or present". With language that describes both the harshness and beauty of family and the land, Anita Desai takes the reader with Tara and Bim on their struggle to confront and heal old wounds. --Alex Freeman, Amazon.com

Review

"A wonderful novel about silence and music, about the partition of a family as well as a nation" New York Times Book Review "A rich Chekhovian novel by one of the most gifted of contemporary Indian writers" New Yorker "Anita Desai has created an entire little civilization here from a fistful of memories, from a patchwork of sickroom dreams and childhood games and fairy tales. Clear Light of Day does what only the very best novels can do; it totally submerges us. It also takes us so deeply into another world that we almost fear we won't be able to climb out again" -- Anne Tyler New York Times

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 April 2010
Format: Paperback
Clear Light of Day is at once an accomplished family drama, a book about growing up and memory, and a historical novel. It captures Old Delhi as it once was and will never be again. It is beautifully written and is a must for anyone interested in modern India.

The novel begins with the reunion of two sisters, Tara and Bim, at the old family house. Bim, once the stronger-tempered of the two, has stayed at home. She is single, teaches at a local school, and looks after their mentally challenged brother. Tara, more accomplished and, as a diplomat's spouse, well-travelled, is prepared to look at the past with more benevolence than Bim, who feels she has somehow been cheated. Much of the drama revolves around their elder brother Raja who, having taken the most risk, is arguably the most successful of the three, but is also cut off from his roots. Indeed, Raja, in pre-partition days, had chosen to pursue Urdu poetry and Islamic studies (the Das family is Hindu), and join the clan of his Muslim hero and mentor, Hyder Ali. The novel alternates between the present and the pre-partition past, between the protagonists' youth and maturity.

Clear Light of Day also works as a historical piece. It conveys the partition and its dangers with considerable power yet without recourse to either brutal or soppy scenes. And it touches upon the politics and their perception among the ordinary people of Delhi. It also portrays Delhi in a vanished light, with scenes on the sandy banks of the Yamuna, Hyder Ali riding by on a white horse, and evocations of a city of gardens and wild birds that is now buried in concrete (note that even Clear Light of Day's present is 1980, the date of writing, not that of a now utterly transformed Indian capital).

Anita Desai is a diaspora writer, but she spent her formative years in India. She has been heard to state that this novel is her most autobiographical, though since Ms Desai's mother was European, this cannot be taken literally.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Malsingh on 11 May 2010
Format: Paperback
To read this book is to submerge yourself in the deepest thoughts and feelings of a family - the hidden resentments, the regrets, the nostalgia and the feeling of being left out. Anita Desai writes with such extraordinary clarity, such vivid descriptions, that the physical and emotional circumstances of the characters can be clearly felt.

This is only a slim book, and the events that happen in it are not particularly exciting or unusual. However, the depth of the characters and their memories of past times, both good and bad, are simply captivating. There is an undeniable feeling of sadness pervading the story, but this melancholy atmosphere only makes it more hauntingly beautiful. A must read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Hope on 23 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
Anita Desai is a beautiful writer, the sense of time and place in this novel is strong. The narrative takes the reader from the present, back to 1947 and the upheaval of partition. Yet this is merely a backdrop, the rendering apart of a family juxtaposed with that of a nation. The relationships between these family members are exquisitely examined, through daily preoccupations and long remembered squabbles.
The daily routines and preoccupations of her older sister Bim, are brought into sharp focus for Tara upon her visit to the old family home. For Bim old resentments are brought to the surface, and old memories of a turbulent summer re-awakened.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DJF on 22 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
Tara and her family come back to Old Delhi to stay with her sister, Bim, and brother Baba. Tara is very much the modern woman who has seen the world with her diplomat husband. Bim has stayed at home looking after her brothers and Aunt until it is just her and Baba in the old house.
This book centres around the relationships within the family aswell as the changing traditions within India. We have numerous flashbacks to the girls past which they viewed very differently to each other. Tara the daydreamer who never excelled at school but loved all the modern clubs and cinemas who couldn't wait to get married and escape from the old and dusty way of life. The more intelligent Bim who was trapped in her way of life and scared to let go.
This isn't a book with a gripping story; or indeed any real story at all. It is a snapshot of these two women, their lives and the changes within India. The characters are interesting, as are the descriptions of the Indian way of life both in the past and now. However, there is little to really get your teeth into or to hold the reader's attention for long periods of time. I didn't feel that the book flowed particularly well and I didn't feel carried along with the story in any significant way. Yes, it was interesting but I am not in any hurry to read anything similar by this author again.
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