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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting
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...
Published on 16 May 2012 by Hilary

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Longing for something more
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...
Published on 13 April 2010 by Helen Donaldson


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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, 16 May 2012
By 
Hilary (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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
By 
Helen Donaldson "Hen Hen" (Poole, UK) - See all my reviews
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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
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This review is from: An Atlas of Impossible Longing (Kindle Edition)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Map Reading, 20 Aug. 2012
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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. It's presented in three stages, each focusing on one generation of the family, though strictly speaking only two of the protagonists are blood relatives.

We join the family in 1907 with the story of Amulya, the son of a well-to-do Calcutta family who is drawn to the countryside. Leaving his family home in Calcutta he moves to the small town of Songarh in a tribal area of western India. He sets up a factory making herbal medicines and perfumes and builds a home amongst people whose language he can't speak and whose ways he barely understands. He brings his family from the big city to live with him in the wilds, not that his poor wife can understand why she has to live in the back of beyond. Kananbala, his wife, hates living in Songarh and yearns to return to Calcutta and leave this primitive and friendless place behind.

Son Nirmal gets married off to pretty Shanti who loves to sing and whose presence brings about an unexpected change in her mother-in-law who doted on Nirmal. Kananbala starts to suffer unpredictable outbursts, Tourettes-like bouts of swearing and calling her daughters-in-law whores and abusing both family and strangers alike. The family send her to her room like a naughty child and keep her away from people she might shock.

The second part of the book focuses on Nirmal who finds himself widowed with a young daughter, Bakul. When his father dies, Nirmal discovers that the old man had been supporting a boy child in a local orphanage and brings the child - Mukunda - back to the family home as a companion for his daughter. However, whilst the family accepts the boy into their home, they never really accept him into their family, treating him as if he's a combination of a favoured servant and a rather naughty pet dog. The two children grow up together as friends and companions until Nirmal gets nervous about them being too close and sends the boy away to school in Calcutta for part three of the book.

After the first two sections being narrated in the third person, the final section marks a change in style and is narrated from the point of view of the now adult Mukunda. Through a series of coincidences that border on the unbelievable and require the reader to not think too closely or too often about how unlikely they are to happen, Mukunda and Bakul's lives intertwine but rarely touch. The role of Bakul's late mother's family home in the plot takes some believing but by that stage of the story, if you're still reading it's probably because you're in love with the book and you'll accept whatever the author throws at you.

`An Atlas of Impossible Longing' is a quintessentially Indian story, a multi-generational saga that explores many of the key issues about the nature of family and family relationships with a particularly Indian and Hindu perspective. I read a lot of books about India and this one has all the hallmarks of a potential classic. It really couldn't have been set anywhere else or have been written by anyone of any other nationality.

It's a tale about unmet need and the longing for things to be other than they are. The characters are mostly unhappy or unfulfilled and generally in some way or other at odds with themselves. You will struggle to find anyone in the book who isn't either personally discontented or who hasn't been battered by life and its cycle of never ending traumas. There are long periods during which little seems to happen and short bursts where if you're not concentrating, people get killed off and you're at risk of missing that it even happened.

The book is filled with yearning, mostly of the type that never actually get acted upon and which build in intensity from one generation to the next. The patriarch of the family, Amulya, gets off lightly with a little bit of wondering how life could have been different if he'd been with the tribal girl who once gave him a flower at a dance. His son, Nirmal, is a poor father to his motherless daughter, distracted by his growing longing for the woman who comes to look after Bakul whilst he's away on archaeological digs. Finally Mukunda represents the most intense and potentially explosive longings expressed through his drive to become someone of significance and his passion for a woman who is not his wife.

Anuradha Roy is fabulous at describing `things' but she's not quite so hot on people. The dialogue is often frustratingly unsatisfying and I'm not sure if it's part of the plot that her characters should say relatively little to each other, or just an artifact of her preference for painting word pictures of houses, villages and cities. The countryside around Songarh is described with such clarity that I feel I know the place despite never having been to that part of India. The pages sizzle with the heat haze of her precise writing. When she describes the architectural ruins which fascinate Nirmal, I don't need a drawing because the pictures are there in my mind. She's particularly detailed in describing the houses in which so much of the book is set - the house at 3 Dulganj Road, the drowned house of Bakul's mother's family which forms the setting for much wheeling and dealing, and the home that Mukunda acquires in Calcutta when its owner flees to East Pakistan. In some ways the houses are the stars of the book, the leading players whose names would be `above the title' in any film of this story. The descriptive powers of the writer are so strong that as a reader you can sometimes find yourself choking on the richness of the fare presented on the page and long (perhaps not impossibly) for a bit of bread and butter writing without quite so much dressing.
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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
By 
Roger W. Clarke "WOGER" (SOUTH WALES) - See all my reviews
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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
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant first half, 29 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: An Atlas of Impossible Longing (Kindle Edition)
Loved the first part, emphasised with the characters, the writing wonderfully descriptive, I could almost see the colours, smell the smells. However, after Mukunda is sent to negotiate for purchase of Manurharpur, the story became unbelievable. I still enjoyed it but the author seemed to have run out of steam with the tale. This to me is a common fault with novelists, holding the strength of the story through to the end.
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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
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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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