Book Review: The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh

The Shadow Lines is the second novel written by Amitav Ghosh and is considered to be his best work till now, for which he was also awarded the Sahitya aAademi Award in 1989. The novel was begun by Ghosh after the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then PM of India. This can be clearly made out in the novel as the entire text consists of undercurrents of political vendetta and is splashed with the idea of nationalism.

The major characters of the novel are the narrator himself, his dominating grandmother, his eccentric uncle Tiridib, and the two women in his life, Illa and May Price. Novy Kapadia says, “It’s basically a memory novel, which skillfully weaves together personal lives and national and international events. The circle of reason, the interest and the focus is on story telling. Coil within coil of memories unfurl in the narrator’s story.”

The book is divided into two parts, the first is given the title, “Going Away” and the second part is “Coming Home”. The central character is strangely not given any name and is portrayed as a mirror image of his uncle Tridib, giving his nationalist and internationalist views. The novel is made of lives of characters living in three different countries namely- India, Bangladesh and England. Ghosh in his novel uses a complex pattern of going forward moving backwards and going zigzag in terms of narration of the time and space.

(courtesy: Youth Ki Awaaz & Madhur Gupta)

The novel all in all is a parallel drawn between war and riots, India and Europe to show how all violence whether committed in the name of nationalism or freedom is to be given no other color. All in all it is a must read for people who want to enter into an era long forgotten and who have a zest for nationalism and modern contemporary history.

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