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The Last Song of Dusk [Paperback]

Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Feb 2005

As young Anuradha boards a train for Bombay, where she will marry a man she has never met, peacocks appear out of nowhere to serenade her. Such a dazzling departure can only lead to an uncertain but exciting future. Sure enough, across her path come a host of colourful characters: Nandini, the artist who walks on water and has a passion for panthers; Mr Bunkusdaas, the father of Bollywood cinema; Diva bai, the sinister old woman rumoured to have fed her sister to crocodiles; and Percival Worthington, the aristocratically limp son of the governor of Bombay.

Together they conjure a forgotten world of betrayed love, of dangerous desires and unfathomable sorrow - creating an Indian melody that will haunt you long after the tale is done.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (3 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753820064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753820063
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 255,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

At the end of his debut novel The Last Song of Dusk, self-styled Bombaywallah Siddharth Shanghvi lists the artists to whom he owes a "debt of music": Bach and Elgar jostle with John Barry and Dido. An equally eclectic and unexpected range of melodies play key roles in this magical, moving tale of love, friendship and dark desire.

Anuradha--the latest in a family line of females gifted with magical songs arrives in Bombay to test the sensitivity of her betrothed, Dr Vardhmaan Gandharva. Passing his test in the nick of time, the newlyweds enjoy an extended honeymoon, spending sultry evenings on their bedroom balcony listening to music and waltzing in tune with their hearts. Their passion for one another protects them from the harsh realities of life, until a stormy night threatens to wrench them apart.

Returning to her family in Udaipur, Anuradha meets the feline orphan Nandini, who has an extraordinary gift for painting her subject's souls and an insatiable appetite for Yeats, a hunger that will one day rise up to haunt her. Back in Bombay the love-worn couple and the precocious artist move into a house and friendships are forged both true and false and the words of Anuradha's mother "in this life, there is no mercy" ring through their lives and those around them. With a gift for epic story-telling akin to Rushdie and Marquez--Siddharth Shanghvi's stunning debut is full of promise. His lyrical prose skilfully blends magical references with stark realism. The Last Song of Dusk is a wise and intuitive novel about the many and varied ways in which human beings love, live and forgive, told with humour, passion and great understanding. --Carey Green


Surrealism and magic are mixed with the more everyday traumas of life and love. This is a larger than life story with a definite Bollywood feel to it...The main characters are well drawn, in all their exuberant eccentricity, and their merciless story makes for an adventurous read. (WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY)

The recent spate of magic-realism novels by writers with one foot in the Raj has been an engaging cultural seam...Shanghvi offers a little something extra... Like Kunzru, Shanghvi places his characters in historically auspicious circumstances, as if the voice of modernity has entered a time machine. (i-D magazine (March 2004))

this is a modern fairy tale about love and kismet that touches all the senses. (COMPANY (April 2004))

[a] colourful first novel...what begins as an erotic fairy tale grows into an exploration of love and loss, sexuality and innocence, friendship and solitude...Shanghvi's loose, poetic style, [is] cut with a dash of magical realism...Shanghvi's story has eloquent insights into the nature of love. (Su Lin Lewis TLS (5.3.04))

[a] magical debut..Madcap characters shimmy across the pages, throwing out slangy witticisms with insouciant charm, but underneath the glitz the mood is mythically melancholy. Delicious. (Eithne Farry ELLE (April '04))

A gently magical taste of India. (MIRROR (12.3.04))

'the novel is beautifully paced, exploring huge themes - fate, death, lasting love, vengeance, ambition, acceptance and - via tiny moments - the trickiness of life. The author twists words mercilessly, his choice of language veering between delicate beauty and raucous irreverence. And there's some extraordinarily fantastic, surprising writing about sexual organs: read it and weep.' **** (Angela Jackson INK)

'The magical tale of an Indian family dealing with love, loss and long forgotten secrets.' *** (HEAT (27 March - 2 April))

[an] exuberhant performance, part of the post-magical realist trend in Indo-English fiction - with its fantasy, pastiche and satire, and tendency to turn every seed of imagintion into a towering tree...Shanghvi's extravagant prose teems with adjectives, adverbs [and] personifications. (Aamer Hussein INDEPENDENT (9.4.04))

A mixture of magical realism, tragi-comedy, and prose poetry, his debut novel sweeps readers into a tale as old as time, populated by eccentrically beautiful characters...A sure shot on the best-seller list. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE (1/4/04))

A promising debut novel, THE LAST SONG OF DUSK is a vivid picture of love and loss in colonial India. (Jay Richardson THE LIST (1.4.04))

the arrival of a new voice likely to cause a stir in the style of the impressive debuts of Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai and Hari Kunzru. (WESTERN DAILY PRESS (27.3.04))

[a] magical tale...The whole book sparkles with energy, and is by turns cheeky, funny and achingly sad. Reading it is like appreciating a highly skilled tightrope walker: one false move and the whole edifice of magic and invention would come crashing down, but Shanghvi is a sure-footed narrator and never falters. He is not afraid to have his characters talk of karma and dharma, kismet, love and the meaning of life, in passages of tender lyricism that make this a story to treasure. (Joanna Hines LITERARY REVIEW (May 2004))

The guru of sex (TIME OF INDIA)

Feral, hednoistic . . .a refreshing dawn to the genre of the new Indian novella (THE ASIAN AGE)

A compelling read. . .told in lush, erotic prose . .. (INDIA ABROAD)

Shanghvi¿s magical realism is for the reader who can suspend disbelief and is carried away on the wings of his words and astounding imagination . . .(his) words hold everything together as they do a divine dance page after page (SUNDAY MID-DAY)

the author writes most beautifully and atmospherically. (Glen Baker MORNING STAR (19.4.04))

LAST SONG [OF DUSK] displays a vivid and fertile imagination, combined with a deeply romantic sensibility. (Veena (May issue))

THE LAST SONG OF DUSK is one novel every self respecting book worm will want to experience. (DESI (1.6.04)) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical ... 15 Nov 2012
By Maggie
''This was a beatiful, vivid, moving, magical book. I loved the combination of human emotion and magical realism and superstision. The characters are all so wonderful and vivid and the emotions portrayed are so bare and become so real to the reader. It was a book that I relished taking my time over because just became so completely lost in the story and in the lives of the characters. It really was a beautiful read and one I would highly recommend''. Agree with everything said here - relishing it so much I don't want to finish it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Could not finish the book... 17 Jun 2009
By Anon
An over the top writing style characterises this novel- which was annoying throughout the book but the main character (Anuradha) kept my interest until she was sidelined in favour of Nandini, an exotic but entirely two-dimentional young woman.
At one point, Virginia Woolf takes the young 14 year old Nandini aside and scolds her for her outfit the moment she arrives at a party. Had the author done any research on Virginia Woolf he would have found that this outburst is entirely uncharactaristc, and he has based this small exchange on a stereotyped image of her. This type of nievity pops up every now and then throughout the novel and ultimately made me put it down.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful read - very moving! 6 Jun 2007
This was a beatiful, vivid, moving, magical book. I loved the combination of human emotion and magical realism and superstision. The characters are all so wonderful and vivid and the emotions portrayed are so bare and become so real to the reader. It was a book that I relished taking my time over because just became so compltely lost in the story and in the lives of the characters. It really was a beautiful read and one I would highly recommend.
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