World Book Night: Rohinton Mistry
The time is in the 1970s; the place is India, in an unnamed city by the sea (but probably Mumbai). The corrupt and brutal government has just declared a State of Emergency, and the country is on the edge of chaos. In these precarious circumstances, four characters form an unlikely alliance: two tailors, uncle and nephew, who have come to the city in flight from the cruel caste violence in their native village; a middle-aged widow desperately trying to preserve her fragile independence; and a young student from the northern mountains, bewildered by the end of his idyllic childhood and his parents’ slow collapse. Through the dramatic and often shocking turns their lives take, we get an intimate view not only of their world but of India itself, in all its extraordinary variety.
This is the first Mistry novel I have read, but through it I have learned much about the period of turbulent history called the Emergency, launched by Indira Ghandi in the 1970s, which removed the independent legislative powers of the provinces and led to the entire country being ruled by decree. In other words, under the guise of democracy, India was subjected to authoritarian rule. Once again, the selection of books distributed on World Book Night has introduced me to an author that opens a new window on important events in recent world history. A highly recommended read.