Often touted as India’s answer to Chekov, RK Narayan was one of the early wave of Indian writers who first introduced the world to the genre of Indian writing in English. This 1943 book is a collection of 32 short stories focusing on the pre-independence fictional South Indian town of Malgudi, and it vividly captures the sights and sounds of everyday life in India.
Known for his gripping cliffhanger endings, Narayan crowds his pages with characters who range from the affable and endearing to the downright despicable.
Adapted into a hugely successful and much-loved Eighties Indian TV series, his imaginary world will draw you in with its simple humour and conversational style, and never let you go.
by Vikram Seth
With all the husband-hunting, class divides and family intrigue, Seth’s masterpiece could be a Jane Austen novel – if it weren’t set in 1950s India, that is. LataMehra’s mother is on a quest to find her daughter the perfect match, but Lata has ideas of her own regarding marriage and love, and so do her extended entourage of relatives. Set against the socio-political upheaval of a newly independent India – spanning from partition to the first general elections – and touching on themes of communal strife and the struggle for gender equality, Seth captures a sweeping, visually rich, satirical snapshot of the subcontinent and its inhabitants finding their feet.
The lovable, idiosyncratic characters and the unadorned language rife with wry wit are why people continue to return to this 20th-century classic, despite its monolithic proportions (at 1,349 pages it’s one of the longest Englishlanguage novels published). The much-awaited sequel to this 1993 book, A Suitable Girl is set to be released in 2016. account of twins Rahel and Estha’s childhood in 1960s communist Kerala and its decaying but relevant caste system.
Tragic events, beginning with the accidental death of their visiting British cousin Sophie Mol, cruelly crush the protagonists’ innocence and upturn their young lives.
Roy’s inventive and original writing style – broken narrative and tactile imagery redolent with symbolism and made-up words – is divisive; irritating to some, ingenious to others, but it constructs with almost painfully vivid clarity the thoughts, hopes and fears that inhabit the minds of children. At its heart is an eloquent tribute to love – the one thing that endures despite anything. Evocative, passionate and dripping with imagery, if you make it to the final twist, this is the sort of book that will haunt you for weeks.