on 4 December 2011
I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It is exceptionally well written with moving descriptions of the terrifying circumstances in which four people - two Hindu twins aged six, a young Sikh teenager and an elderly Muslim doctor are made homeless during the time of the partition in India.
I loved the description of the kind, generous, single-minded doctor feeding crumbs to the stray dogs he encounters on his travels. His only desire is to heal and treat the sick - whatever their race or creed. The incredible journeys of the four main characters and all the horror which they experience whilst trying to find a new home are vividly described by Amit Majmudar. This book is absolutely superb - thought provoking and powerful giving a heart-rending insight into the horrendous effects of the partition. Anyone who reads this novel cannot help but be moved by it.
on 13 January 2012
Two young boys are left standing on the platform of a railway station, torn from their mother's grasp by a crowd of people pushing to get onto the train. An elderly doctor arrives at work to find his surgery smashed up beyond use. A teen-aged girl runs away when her male relatives kill her mother, aunts, sisters, and all the other women in the family to preserve their 'honour'. Welcome to 'Partitions' by Amit Majmudar, a book you'll remember long after the final page is turned.
'Partitions' follows the twins, the doctor and the virgin, interweaving three different story-lines set during the human exodus brought about by the formation of the new countries. The book is set in August 1947 in the days following Independence and offers perspectives from all three key religions. The boys are Hindu, the doctor a Muslim and the girl is a Sikh. Unlikely as it might sound, the book is narrated by a dead man called Dr Roshan Jaitly. He uses his ghostly form to flit between the three stories in a way that possibly sounds a bit daft and probably shouldn't work. Oddly and unexpectedly it does work - beautifully, seamlessly and in a very smooth and moving way.
In just over 200 pages, Majmudar moves his four characters like chess pieces on a board, dancing them step by step towards each other then sending them away again. Jaitly's ghost watches over them and comments on their progress. It's not just the focal characters that make the book so memorable; the supporting cast are richly painted and fascinating too. It's the little details that make these people come alive on the page.
This is not the most horrible book I've read about 'Partition' - that accolade must surely go to Kushwant Singh's 'The Train to Pakistan' - but it is one of the most moving and ultimately optimistic books about this horrific time. Buy it - it really is an exceptional book.
on 16 May 2012
This book is so wonderfully written that, as another reviewer has said, it came as no surprise to find the author is also a poet. Some sentences I've re-read just for their beauty.
The story is gripping and harrowing, relating a terrible time, but for the most part avoiding graphic violence (although I did have to skip 3 or 4 pages in the middle so that I could sleep that night!). At times I found myself almost holding my breath, so frightened for the main characters. Man's inhumanity to man never fails to appal, and maltreatment of women, and their acceptance of it, never fails to outrage. Yet these horrors are overcome by the goodness of one unlikely hero, and this is so skilfully sketched by the author.
Here is one small extract which I think sums up not just this little part of history, but the history of the world in general:-
"...sensing, as he has before, a detached kindness guiding the courses and intersections of people, which violent men try to disrupt but succeed in disrupting only for a time."
on 5 January 2015
I found this book gripping from the start and read it in one sitting. It's not a big book compared to the average size paperback; it only has 215 pages. However, the author has managed to pack a punch into those pages. It is a harrowing story of the devastation caused by the partition of India/Pakistan in 1947 after gaining Independance from British Rule!
It tells the story of the sectarian fighting that broke out between HIndus, Muslims and Sikhs as a border was erected in the Punjab region of Northern India; a part of which became Pakistan. Hindus/Sikhs living in the new Pakistan were given the choice to move to India and Muslims living in India were likewise given the choice to move to Pakistan. Trains were provided for those who could afford to 'emigrate' but many people did not reach their chosen destinations as organised gangs from each side waylaid the trains and massacred the travellers of opposite religions! It was a bloodbath!
The author tells the story of those left behind who couldn't afford to or refused to leave their homes. Many homes owned by Muslims were ransacked and burned in India as were homes owned by Hindus/Sikhs in Pakistan. There seemed to be a complete breakdown of law and order as many policemen were complicit in the attacks by turning a blind eye or were just totally overwhelmed by the scale of it all. Young women/girls were being abducted to be sold into prostitution and rape was happening on a monumental scale as many were left helpless by the death of their fathers, brothers or husbands.
It is at once a very sobering account of the brutality of man and also the often unexpected altruism of strangers. It taught me more about these events than reading about it in a dry history book ever could! I would recommend it to anyone who wished to better understand this aspect of living history.
on 31 July 2015
A fascinating and cleverly written book. It took a while to get used to the status of spiritual status of the narrator but, having done so, the 'overview' created by this became intriguing.
The series of mini-threads through the book are horrific in content and made one contemplate the tragedy of the manner in which British Government (Lord Mountbatten as Viceroy of India) determined the concept and execution of the creation of Pakistan (East & West, at that time) from the Indian sub-continent.
I am now drawn to finding a good and objective history book which reviews these matters with the benefit of hindsight and time passed. Such a book will not be a commentary on Mountbatten's life and achievements!
on 24 June 2013
If you read this book hoping to learn a little more about the background to Partition then you will be disappointed; there is no explanation or back-story to the four central characters - twin Hindu boys, a Sikh teenage girl and an elderly Muslim doctor - and as such it is difficult to fully embrace any of them. The story is 'narrated' by the spirit or ghost of the twins' father, who moves through time and distance to tell us of the journeys that will bring them together. This is in many ways similar to the method used in The Book Thief, but unlike that book the writing style - for me - never quite works here as the thoughts and feelings, few as they are, are always those of the narrator and so the characters never really develop as believable individuals. If you like to care about your characters then this probably isn't for you.
on 6 May 2014
Ever since I was a young child, I’ve loved reading. My dad would encourage us, and bought lots of books, spanning different genres. After not seeing him for months at a time, we’d all tuck up in bed, and he’d read us a story, unfortunately, half way through he’d fall asleep, and start snoring :)
For me reading offers excitement, escapism, inspiration, and knowledge. It’s been a while since a book has enthralled me. On Easter Monday, the weather was miserable, there was nothing decent on TV, and I recalled my sister in-law telling me about a book she borrowed from our study called Partitions, she said she was so eager to know the ending, that she stayed up a few nights just to finish it (no mean feat as a mother of a young child & job as a nurse). I picked it up early that morning, and by the afternoon had read it.
Partitions is a fictional story set amongst the chaos of July 1947 (division of India into Pakistan). The reader follows the journey of the persecution of each religious group (Hindu, Muslim & Sikh) as told by a man. This man/the narrator happens to be the father of twin Hindu boys, Keshav and Shankar. They are fleeing Pakistan for India with their mother, Sonia (a Christian), but somehow get lost from her during their train journey, and the brothers are left to defend for themselves. Then we meet Dr Masud, an elderly well-respected paediatrician, who had his own clinic in India, but as a Muslim, he has to abandon his home and head towards Pakistan. The final character is Simran, a teenage Sikh girl, who flees from her home after realising that her father and male relatives decide to poison her mother, sisters, and young brother, so that they don’t get abused at the hands of Muslims. She embarks on a journey to Amritsar, but on her way, she gets taken captive by three Muslim men looking to exploit vulnerable young women and sell them to men.
Partitions captivates the reader; I was genuinely moved by the characters, eager to know whether they’d escape harm. By the end of the story, you reel at man’s worst capabilities (men exploiting women, the caste system, religious hatred), but there is also much love and kindness, the glimpses of the acts of essential goodness that save us from despair. Keshav & Shankar, Dr Masud and Simran all originally embark on their separate journeys, but in the end their paths cross, three different religious groups in unity. There are a few twists to the story, making this is a traumatic but enriching journey from which no reader can emerge unaffected.
on 14 July 2011
I really enjoyed this book loved the spirit telling the story and keeping track on the main players, who like a rope, fray when the violence of partition destroys their lives and they all go seperate ways.
The book is very poetic, so it really was no surprise to find at the end that the author has published books of poetry before this novel.
I liked the etheric quality produced.
It also has historic qualities exploring the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim divisions in families and communities.
A good read, throughly enjoyable all the way to the end - would make a lovely film.
on 6 February 2013
Let me first try to put you off buying this book. It mixes brutality and sentimentality in ways that will manipulate your feelings first one way then the other. Subtle, it isn't. Its main characters are evenly divided between the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh religions as though the book is subject to equality legislation. Not content with the prostitute-with-a-heart trope, there is a pack of stray dogs that exhibits a sureness of moral purpose that a Greek chorus would be proud of. Oh, and its narrator is a ghost.
That `Partitions' in fact works so well is down to the quality and language of the storytelling. The novel reads like the screenplay for a road movie or a thriller, one of Cormac McCarthy's perhaps. We want the good guys to win through: the twin Hindu children fleeing east to India in search of their mother (the ghost-narrator is the boys' father); the Sikh girl fleeing first her family, then their would-be murderers; and the unworldly Muslim doctor fleeing in the other direction, west towards the new Pakistan.
The title refers to partitions, plural. Not just the rather arbitrary geographical line drawn by the retreating British that led to one of the world's bloodiest ever upheavals, but also the partitions between people of different faiths, of different cultures, within families and between the narrator's spiritual existence and the corporeal world he can no longer influence. As a device the ghost-narrator is very effective, giving us a suitably sweeping bird's eye view of the tide of human misery on display at the same time as distancing us from too raw a sight of some of the grisly details. We readers, cast in the role of observers, come to feel impotent much like the narrator, whose children are among the principal actors of this appalling but moving drama.
on 2 June 2012
I came across this book, as with many others, as the Kindle Book of the Day and eager as always for a bargain, snapped it up, as it sounded right up my street. I wasn't wrong.
This is an interesting tale of the partitioning of what was once part of India into the state of Pakistan and what happened to four, or maybe five, of her former inhabitants as they attempt to start a new life. Two of these are six year old Hindu twins, who as the blurb says, lose sight of their mother as the three of them fight to board the last train to Delhi. It is not until almost the end of the book, which is narrated by the boys dead father, that we discover what happened to their mother, that she was pulled from the moving train by her former lover, hoping to also start anew now that she was a widow. She does exactly that, but not in the way that her former lover would have hoped, for she makes her own attempt (and succeeds) in joining her former husband. That part of the story though, I will leave you to read for yourselves.
The other two characters are a teenage Sikh girl, whose father would rather poison her than see her defiled, only she cannot bring herself to drink that poison and escapes. Fleeing from her home and everything that she knows, she is picked up by those who would seek to abuse her by selling into her effective slavery or prostitution. However, she manages to escape, and fleeing across some sugar cane fields, stumbles into the arms of Muslim Doctor Masud, who also comes across the smallest of the two twins, who suffering from a heart condition has collapsed due to the strain, while his stronger twin goes to seek help. The four eventually board a bus to Sikh capital Amritsar, posing as one big happy family.
This was and is a relatively short read given the subject matter, that took me around six days to complete (slowly at first). But as the story speeded up, so did my reading, until I read the final third in just one day. I know little of the formation of Pakistan and the events that led up to it, but the author paints a vivid picture of the aftermath, and in particular the effect that it had on the female population, who found themselves vulnerable and open to exploitation.
The author plays with the four lead characters, like a dance in slow motion, moving them towards each other and then further away before bringing them together almost at the end. The ghost of the twins father is ever watchful, guiding them on their journey without (for the most part) attempting to interfere, but observing gently from a distance. This for me at least, is part of what makes this such a memorable read, for it the supporting cast who in many ways take centre stage, just as in life. I also liked the way that he brought these four characters, each from a different religion together.
Others have described this as a harrowing read, although to be honest, I have read worse. It is though as always, the message behind the words that counts, and for me that message was about unity, for in the end we are all the same, regardless of belief and it is the recognition of this that leads to the unity and ultimate acceptance, that we all crave.