The shadow lines, Amitav Ghosh

The main character of this story lives as a little boy with his parents and grandmother in Calcutta. The boy is in love with his niece Ila, but she is in love with an English boy. His nephew Tridib is in love with the sister of the English boy. The main character, whose name we never hear, tells about their life in Calcutta and how Tridib tells him stories about his time in Engeland. These stories are so vivid that the boy is able to recognize everything when he comes to London himself to study, much later. In that time he also finds out what really happened on that terrible day in 1964, when something happened during a riot that would change the family.

The characters in this book are connected through lines, some of them visible, but sometimes not.
Love, memories, feeling like a stranger, family ties and family secrets are the threads that make this story, both in India and in England.

Politics play a role in the background, because the story is set in the years after the independence of India and the partition that followed. The unrest of the sixties and the riots in those years also leave their mark on the family.

The family life in Calcutta is written very vividly and I never read a book before that showed me how London can be exotic to people who are not from Western Europe. The differences between East and West, India and England are very well written.

This was the first book I read by Amitav Ghosh, but it won’t be the last one. I already have Sea of poppies here, and I am very curious to read more books by this great Indian author.

Published in 1988