A discovery of self : Book Review of “All the lives we never lived”
It’s been a long while since I wrote a book review .
In fact it’s been a long while since I read a book that I got so engrossed in reading that I felt I just had to tell the whole world about it.
A book that combines fiction with historical facts is difficult. But Anuradha Roy does it with effortless ease in her latest book ” All the Lives we never lived “. I am one of those people fascinated by history so I am a real sucker to novels with a historical background.
“All the Lives we Never Lived ” was recommended to me by one of my friends who is on the library committee. I was expecting something slightly more pedantic ( writers often get tied up in historical facts) but this turned out to be pure delight.
It is one of those books that is hard to put down: a series of stories within a story that is spun so deftly, like the intricate weave of a Patola sari.
The story is set in Muntazir ( meaning one who anticipates) an imaginary town in North India
” where buildings poked their way out between orchards of lychee, mango and custard apple, interruptions in a landscape with more trees than houses.”
The story is narrated by Myshkin Rozario who tries to understand the events that shaped his life.
Like all small towns, Muntazir is more idyllic than it seems with the main characters cast in different molds. Nek Chand and his wife Gayatri as as alike as chalk and cheese and their untraditional marriage was a source of aggravation for both. Finally, unable to take any more, more tragedy occurs when Myshkin’s mother Gayatri, runs off to free herself from the stifling confines of her marriage and the small town they are living in. Her excuse was that she wanted to find herself and fulfill her artistic potential.
A parcel of letters from an old friend now settled in Canada sets off the recollections of Myshkin Rozario that span several decades starting from pre-Independent India.
As Gayatri begins her journey of discovering herself, her husband too is spurred on to self-discovery. This leaves poor Mishkin in the care of his grandfather for a while. The old man too had to re-learn several things like housekeeping and parenting “of a child left adrift”. And, at almost the end of his life, Mishkin too begins his voyage of discovery to find himself in the footsteps of his mother.
I would highly recommend this book on a wet monsoon afternoon where you could easily lose yourself in the joys of a well-nuanced tale.
Ciao and Happy Reading