The Indian Subcontinent

Ardashir Vakil
"Eight-year-old Cyrus Readymoney introduces us to his magical universe of movies and mischief; tennis tournaments and truant afternoons; sex and samosas; the sea and the shore. Exploring Bombay in the early 1970s, Cyrus strays from his mostly absent parents, members of the Parsi elite, into the complex world of his neighbors, including a mysterious maharani and her seductive adopted daughter. In his travels, he experiences the splendor of Hindi films and delights in all manner of mouthwatering food.

"But in the course of his wanderings, Cyrus finds himself caught between the innocence and insouciance of his youth and the responsibility and worry that await him in adulthood. When his parents' marriage falls apart and his family is shattered, Cyrus is forced out of his carefree existence into a more severe reality. With an acute ear for the nuances of Indian English and a comic appreciation of a boy's life, Ardashir Vakil creates an extraordinarily vivid tableau of India while at the same time drawing a rich portrait of adolescence and its appetites."

Rumer Godden

"In this 1939 psychological drama, English and Irish nuns work to establish a convent in a unused palace, high in the Himalayas. The nuns are to doomed to failure because their own repressed memories and desires make them unable to connect with the Indian people and their culture. They seem to be overwhelmed by the sensuality of their surroundings. The novel was made into an excellent film in 1947 starring Deborah Kerr as the Mother Superior. The nuns leaving the mountaintop palace seemed to many film-goers of the time to be an allegory for the failure of the British Raj."

Monica Ali

"This is the deeply moving story of one woman, Nazneen, born in a Bangladeshi village and transported to London at age eighteen to enter into an arranged marriage. What could not be changed must be borne. And since nothing could be changed, everything had to be borne. This principle ruled her life. It was mantra, fettle, and challenge. Nazneen's inauspicious entry into the world, an apparent stillbirth on the hard mud floor of a village hut, imbues in her a sense of fatalism that she carries across continents when she is married off to Chanu, a man old enough to be her father. Nazneen moves to London and, for years, keeps house, cares for her husband, and bears children, just as a girl from the village is supposed to do. But gradually she is transformed by her experience, and begins to question whether fate controls her or whether she has a hand in her own destiny."

Bharati Mukherjee

What does an Indian father do with three desirable daughters, well-educated, groomed, English speaking and beautiful? Advertise and control, of course. He needs three desirable husbands and he needs all three daughters to behave at all times like proper Indian ladies. This, mind you, in the 1970's! They all marry well, meaning money, connections and profession of the groom. What can happen when choice is taken away, lives are full of secrets, and East meets West makes for a wonderful cultural peek inside Indian life.

Kavita Daswani

"Anju has grown up in upper-middle-class Bombay, where even in the twenty-first century, arranged marriage is the norm. Her parents have been trying to find a suitable man for her since her late teens, but they keep turning up types who - shudder - wear shiny disco-era shirts, or want to carry her away to their family compound in Ghana, or are otherwise equally hopeless. The ones she likes, well, they just don't seem to fall for her."

V.S. Naipaul

Willie Chandran feels as though the life he lives is not his own. But his listlessness washes away in a flood of encouragement from his radically political sister. Inspired, he joins an underground liberation movement in India. But after years of revolution and incarceration, he grows disillusioned and returns to England, still hoping to find his true self.

Amulya Malladi
"Between the pressures to marry and become a traditional Indian wife and the humiliation of losing her job in Silicon Valley, Devi is on the edge–-where the only way out seems to be to jump. . . . Yet Devi’s plans to “end it all” fall short when she is saved by the last person she wants to see: her mother. Forced to move in with her parents until she recovers, Devi refuses to speak. Instead, she cooks . . . nonstop. And not the usual fare, but off the wall twists on Indian classics, like blueberry curry chicken or Cajun prawn biryani. Now family meals are no longer obligations. Devi’s parents, her sister, and her brother-in-law can’t get enough–and they suddenly find their lives taking turns as surprising as the impromptu creations Devi whips up in the kitchen each night. Then a stranger appears out of the blue. Devi, it appears, had a secret–-one that touches many a nerve in her tightly wound family. Though exposing some shattering truths, the secret will also gather them back together in ways they never dreamed possible. Interspersed with mouthwatering recipes, this story mixes humor, warmth, and leap-off-the-page characters into a rich stew of a novel that reveals a woman’s struggle for acceptance from her family and herself."
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

"A young man named Henry sits down with his grandmother, a genial lady still called Baby by everyone, in her Manhattan townhouse where he has lived all his life, to record the history of a spiritual movement that has woven itself into the fabric of their family's lives for four generations.

"What unfolds is a mesmerizing family saga: the imperious great-grandmother Elsa and her husband, an Indian poet, whose marriage is as unconventional as the movement they help to found; Baby, their cheerfully pragmatic daughter, married to the aloof English diplomat Graeme; bemused and brooding Renata, Baby and Graeme's daughter, married to an idle dreamer; and finally Henry, Renata's son, who in many ways bears the legacy of all that has gone before. Their lives--and that of the movement's elusive yet ineluctable founder, known only as the Master--intertwine, diverge, and collide with each other in a masterfully orchestrated story spanning the twentieth century and several continents."

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Anju is the daughter of an upper-caste Calcutta family of distinction. Sudha is the daughter of the black sheep of that same family. Sudha is startlingly beautiful; Anju is not. Despite these differences, since the day the two girls were born--the same day their fathers died, mysteriously and violently--Sudha and Anju have been sisters of the heart. Bonded in ways even their mothers cannot comprehend, the two girls grow into womanhood as if their fates, as well as their hearts, are merged. When Sudha learns a dark family secret, that connection is threatened.

Indra Sinha
This novel was inspired by a true story where the victim became a villain and the killer became a hero, offers a rare and fascinating insight into the psychosexual undercurrents of Indian life. The reverberations from the notorious Nanavati society murder in 1950s Bombay -- the fatal consequence of an affair between an Indian playboy and his married English lover -- were so great that they reached the offices of Prime Minister Nehru and changed the face of the Indian justice system irrevocably. What is not known -- has never been known -- is that a second, connected crime, so cruel that it destroyed the lives of two women, went unreported and has remained unpunished. Until now.
Manil Suri

"At the opening of this masterful debut novel, Vishnu lies dying on the staircase he inhabits while his neighbors the Pathaks and the Asranis argue over who will pay for an ambulance. As the action spirals up through the floors of the apartment building we are pulled into the drama of the residents' lives: Mr. Jalal's obsessive search for higher meaning; Vinod Taneja's longing for the wife he has lost; the comic elopement of Kavita Asrani, who fancies herself the heroine of a Hindi movie. Suffused with Hindu mythology, this story of one apartment building becomes a metaphor for the social and religious divisions of contemporary India, and Vishnu's ascent of the staircase parallels the soul's progress through the various stages of existence. As Vishnu closes in on the riddle of his own mortality, we wonder whether he might not be the god Vishnu, guardian not only of the fate of the building and its occupants, but of the entire universe."

Arundhati Roy

"Compared favorably to the works of Faulkner and Dickens, Arundhati Roy’s debut novel is a modern classic that has been read and loved worldwide. Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevokably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing 'big things [that] lurk unsaid' in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest. Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated."

Hari Kunzru
"Fathered, through circuitous circumstances, by an Englishman, Pran Nath Razdan, the boy who will become the Impressionist, was passed off by his Indian mother as the child of her husband, a wealthy man of high caste. Growing up spoiled in a life of luxury just down river from the Taj Mahal, at fifteen the news of Pran's true parentage is revealed to his father and he is tossed out into the street--a pariah and an outcast. Thus begins an extraordinary, near-mythical journey of a young man who must reinvent himself to survive--not once, but many times."
Paul Scott
The first volume in Paul Scott's historical tour-de-force, the Raj Quartet, opens in 1942 as the British fear both Japanese invasion and Indian demands for self-rule. In the Mayapore gardens, Daphne Manners, daughter of the provincial governor, leaves her Indian lover, who will soon be arrested for her alleged rape.
Barbara Cleverly
Commander Joe Sandilands, a Scotland Yarder completing a stint with the Bengal Police, is on his way back home when the provincial governor asks him to look into the recent death-by-suicide of an army officer's young wife. Nancy Drummond, a close friend of the dead woman, reveals that four other officers wives have also died apparently by accident or misadventure over a period of 12 years, all in the month of March.
Salman Rushdie

"In his first novel since The Satanic Verses, Rushdie gives readers a masterpiece of controlled storytelling, informed by astonishing scope and ambition, by turns compassionate, wicked, poignant, and funny. From the paradise of Aurora's legendary salon to his omnipotent father's sky-garden atop a towering glass high-rise, the Moor's story evokes his family's often grotesque but compulsively moving fortunes in a world of possibilities embodied by India in this century."

Jhumpa Lahiri

"...takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world."

Bharati Mukherjee
In piecing together her ancestor's transformation from a docile Bengali Brahmin girl-child into an impassioned organizer of resistance against the British Raj, the contemporary narrator discovers and lays claim to unacknowledged elements in her "American" identity.
Indu Sundaresan

"An enchanting historical epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most controversial empresses -- a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire. Skillfully blending the textures of historical reality with the rich and sensual imaginings of a timeless fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps readers up in Mehrunnisa's embattled love with Prince Salim, and in the bedazzling destiny of a woman -- a legend in her own time -- who was all but lost to history until now."