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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tranquil, elegant novel - "Saraswati Park"
Set in a country ordinarily portrayed to the international community as incorrigibly mystic and equally primitive, "Saraswati Park" is a refined and remarkably poignant observation on the prosaic nature of middle-class India. Written with both ardent familiarity and detached appraisal, Anjali Joseph draws the reader into a quotidian Bombay existence with incredible...
Published on 23 Sep 2010 by kate

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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In the shade of the banyan tree
Anjali Joseph was listed in the Telegraph recently as one of 'Twenty Writers Under 40' to look out for. This was notable as the list was published before this, her debut novel, was. Joseph might be described as a writer with pedigree: she read English at Trinity College, Cambridge, has taught at the Sorbonne and written for The Times of India as well as being a...
Published on 12 July 2010 by William Rycroft


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tranquil, elegant novel - "Saraswati Park", 23 Sep 2010
This review is from: Saraswati Park (Paperback)
Set in a country ordinarily portrayed to the international community as incorrigibly mystic and equally primitive, "Saraswati Park" is a refined and remarkably poignant observation on the prosaic nature of middle-class India. Written with both ardent familiarity and detached appraisal, Anjali Joseph draws the reader into a quotidian Bombay existence with incredible intimacy and masterful transparency. While the story is one to which anyone sharing our basic human condition can relate, the tranquil clarity and fierce elegance of Joseph's narrative is truly stunning. "Saraswati Park" is a quietly addictive read, one of unmistakable grace that reveals a charming exegesis of triviality.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In the shade of the banyan tree, 12 July 2010
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This review is from: Saraswati Park (Paperback)
Anjali Joseph was listed in the Telegraph recently as one of 'Twenty Writers Under 40' to look out for. This was notable as the list was published before this, her debut novel, was. Joseph might be described as a writer with pedigree: she read English at Trinity College, Cambridge, has taught at the Sorbonne and written for The Times of India as well as being a commissioning editor for Elle in the same country. I mention all of this because I always wonder what helps writers whose books are yet to be published get onto lists of this sort. Is the book really so amazing that the few who can have read it have already created the buzz or with that kind of background is it expected that a writer like Joseph is bound to have a bright future? After reading her solid début it may be worth noting that part of the reason for her inclusion on that list was their 'expectation that these writers have their best work ahead of them'

Joseph's novel is very much a portrait of the 'new India' focusing on a middle-class family in Bombay. Mohan is a letter-writer, a profession which is dying out. From his seat under some tarpaulin near the GPO he sits and writes missives for those who are illiterate, anything from heartfelt letters to the completion of bureaucratic forms. Joseph soon conjures the bustling and colourful street scene that is his daily existence.

"For a while he sat and watched the world, framed at the upper edge by the fringe of the tarpaulin - hairy bits of rope and a jagged piece of packing plastic, once transparent, now grey, hung down. Beyond this, all around the letter writers, life persisted at its noisiest. A fleet of cockroach-like taxis in black and yellow livery waited at the junction outside the GPO. When the lights changed they all, honking, took the u-turn. A man on a cycle passed; he carried a tangle of enormous red ledgers, each wrapped in plastic, atop his head. The gold on their spines flashed in the sun."

He is also an avid buyer of second-hand books, particularly those that contain marginalia, and deep within himself is an urge to be a writer himself of something far more creative. That urge is deeply hidden however and even his passion for books is frustrated by the closure of his favourite second-hand book market. His wife Lakshmi is frustrated by her domestic station and the way in which the simple daily living of their married life has clearly taken her and her husband far away from what they had enjoyed together in the first place. Joseph again provides a suitably domestic image to encapsulate all of those frustrations.

"Four of Mohan's shirts, collected this morning from the ironing boys, lay on the bed. She looked at them in exasperation. It was still there, the mild ring of dirt inside his collars, like a smudged pencil line. It wasn't his fault; nothing could be done. She had scrubbed at some of them to remove the mark, but it had been the collar, not the stain, that had begun to despair and fray. It was in these things, which didn't talk or, strictly speaking, have lives, that her days played out: her relationship with the shirts, neatly ironed and folded, was so much more direct that any other interaction these days."

So both Mohan and Lakshmi have seen their lives slowly slide away from their promise and it will take a couple of events to shake things up. First of all comes the arrival of nephew Ashish. Forced to repeat his final year of college after falling foul of the attendance record Ashish is nineteen years of age and a potent mix of developing sexuality and approaching manhood. Whilst the home of his aunt and uncle is supposed to provide the kind of solace and support to help him complete his studies he finds himself trusted to a certain extent and left to get on with his own studies whilst Mohan and Lakshmi deal with their own challenges. What he does in fact is embark on a couple of troubled relationships, firstly with a wealthy fellow student and then with a tutor. Ashish seems at first as though he will be the sub-plot of this novel but in fact he comes to dominate the storyline. Personally I thought this was a shame as I was far more interested in Mohan, his writing and the troubles of making a marriage work. Ashish doesn't seem to learn much from his escapades and is as incapable of dealing with the fallout from latter affair as he was from the first. That kind of naivety is far less engaging than the subtle ways in which Mohan seeks to reconnect with his daily life and realise something more of his creative impulses. Lakshmi too, as she deals with family crisis in one form or another is a sensitively realised character. Joseph manages to create a vivid picture of city life in Bombay without resorting to the kinds of exotic clichés that I am always wary of in fiction from the Indian sub-continent and beyond. She does this mainly with an un-showy display of well rendered detail and also the way she uses the shifting seasons, the changing rhythms and the various locations of the novel to keep it progressing forwards. That's why I called it a solid début. I enjoyed it without being blown away which seems entirely in keeping with what that list was supposed to be highlighting. Joseph is a writer of potential and it will be interesting to see what she does next (Her next novel, set in London, Paris and Bombay will look at the way your twenties can challenge the morals and sense of self you have developed, the journey into the world and back into yourself).
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do read Saraswati Park - thoughtful and thought-provoking, 3 Oct 2010
This review is from: Saraswati Park (Paperback)
Read this book - it is subtle, elegant and wonderful. It offers great depth about its main characters - Mohan, living in the margins, wondering how the things he had meant to achieve in his life have slipped out of focus: 'he had been going to be a scholar, a person with a great many books who sat at a desk and wrote all day'; Ashish, looking for ways to move on from youthful indecision and develop an identity of his own: 'the room reminded him of his defeats, and the disappointments of the years: the damp marks on the walls, the stains and specks of black on the yellowing paint'; Lakshmi, coming to resent being defined by the needs of others: 'her day held its breath until Mohan and Ashish had been safely eased into the world'; Bombay itself: 'the last light was golden, like something in a film; it fell carelessly across the dusty leaves of the old banyan in the empty plot'. There are no glib certainties or resolutions here - but very rewarding insights into the complexities and intricacies of people's lives, the spaces between them and the startling moments of connectedness. This is a book that echoes through your imagination long after you have finished reading it - let it into your life.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slight book, not fully formed, 29 July 2010
This review is from: Saraswati Park (Paperback)
This is not a sprawling narrative about a large number of residents whose lives interlock, as is common with much Indian writing. It is a much tighter, more focused story. But that, in a sense, is also its weakness. I felt it was rather sparse and underdeveloped in both its characters and themes - a short story in scope (though it runs for 250 pages) rather than a fully fledged novel. I did enjoy the fluency of the writing and the gentle portrayal of the lives of Ashish and his aunt and uncle, but felt more could have been done with the characters.
The broken marriage of Ashish's aunt and uncle is really a sidebar. This book is about adolescent Ashish trying to understand himself and his urges. It is not a book just about homosexuality, but homosexuality features strongly and this sets the novel apart from other Indian novels in English. It is a theme not much explored on the subcontinent.
While Ahsish's affair with his school friend is well done and feels natural and believable, his affair with his tutor is excruciating and awkward. The character of the tutor does not come through well, and it is hard to understand Ashish's attraction to him. Only Ahsish's painful separation from his tutor-lover is strongly painted.
Saraswati Park is billed as a book about Mumbai, but the sense of place is not that strong. Ashish's female friend and confidante Madhavi is also a very two-dimensional figure, along with other characters in the book.
I would not consider this a strong debut, though I will look out for other books by this first-time author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emotional and charming, 15 April 2014
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This review is from: Saraswati Park (Kindle Edition)
the pains of finding out who you are, the thrills of an encounter and the devastation of it not being reciprocated - not a literary classic but I enjoyed reading it
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the reviews suggested, 28 May 2012
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N. Chouhan (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saraswati Park (Paperback)
I ordered this book expecting a good read but was very disappointed. The book starts in a depressing style and doesn't capture the reader. The story hardy progresses by the 5th chapter and one is kept wondering where the plot is leading too. Overall, very poorly written, and the author is unable to keep the plot moving swiftly.

Wouldn't recommend at all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anjali Joseph's beautiful novel, 13 May 2012
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This review is from: Saraswati Park (Paperback)
Saraswati Park is a novel of dramas and energies that are entirely welcome and recognisable. Its story brings a cluster of urban Indian, domestic lives into the foreground, and Anjali Joseph creates an adeptly textured narrative space in which the feelings and experiences of husband and wife, friend and friend and lover and lover are carefully turned over and examined, and are thereby accorded great value. The tone and pace are handled superbly, and the measured coming and going of the sub plots, the ebbs and surges of each particular line of the story, swap over and swell or fade in a way that suggests Joseph has a very strong technical sense of narrative structure. This is all accomplished against a background of a monsoon drenched, bustling city, whose train guards and servants and newspaper sellers manage, thanks to Joseph's skill, to be always present as themselves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bombay Ricksaw Club, 7 Sep 2011
This review is from: Saraswati Park (Paperback)
Saraswati Park is a beautifully written first novel. The Light and smells and birds of Bombay leap off the page and stay with the reader long after the book is put down. The First Chapter sets up the main character and his motivations and also the circumstances for the rest of the novel. What I particularly enjoyed was the path Ashish takes through the novel. His experiences and the relationships he forges are interesting and appear very real, but without seeming cliched, mawkish or sentimental, which is testament to the originality and discipline of Joseph's writing style.
The plot moves along at a steady, some would say, Indian pace, that gathers momentum as the ending approaches. But the main motivation, I found, to finish the book, was that I was interested in the characters. They remain with you long after reading, just like Bombay does, although it would be fair to argue that in Saraswati park, Bombay is the main character.
Miss Joseph comes across as an established writer, and it is incredible to think this is her first novel. It is rare that a book lives up to the hype on the back, but I think Saraswati Park is expertly summed up by Amit Chaudhuri. It will be interesting to see what Miss Joseph produces next!
In summation, I would urge anyone who has been to Bombay, or India in general, to read Saraswati Park, as I'm sure they would be able to identify with the book, and it would remind them of the adventures they had, and probably compel them to return in the near future. Rickshaw anyone?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning first novel, 21 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Saraswati Park (Paperback)
This is a wonderful glimpse into life in modern Mumbai set against a gentle story of changes in the lives of local people. The writer brings out the full feel and pace of life in the city, the mix of the old and the new and the apparent range of choices of the main characters. It's warm and serious at the same time with a fascinating, easy and engaging style of writing. A must-read!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book, 30 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Saraswati Park (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book as a relaxing read. I intend to read any of his other novels I come accross
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Saraswati Park
Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph (Paperback - 3 Mar 2011)
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