Mukherjee explores Anjali’s issues with understanding and sympathy.

MISS NEW INDIA

A tightly woven narrative about naïvete and personal growth in contemporary India.

The title refers to Anjali Bose, who’s trying to delicately balance her identity between the “old” India of her parents and the “new” (and more Westernized) India of her peers. Nineteen-year-old Anjali is from Gauripur, in Bihar province, a not-very-happening place. Her dissatisfaction and boredom are compounded by her lackluster lower-middle-class household, for her father wants to arrange a marriage for his daughter, and Anjali has little patience for this hoary convention. Moreover, her father’s track record is unprepossessing, for Anjali’s only slightly older sister has been through the process and is already divorced. Despite her father’s trotting out more than 75 possible candidates, Anjali has found no one she likes or respects. It’s conceivable that Anjali herself is part of the problem, for she wants far more than either her family or her environment can give her. And when one seemingly ideal candidate for the position of husband rapes her, Anjali is out of there. After a brief stop at the apartment of her unsympathetic sister, and with the urging of ex-pat English teacher Peter Champion, she heads off to Bangalore to test her English-speaking skills in the burgeoning service industry being outsourced to that teeming city. Within 24 hours of her arrival, she has come in contact with a more diverse group of people than she had met in her entire life. Armed with an introduction (from Peter) to Minnie Bagehot’s boarding house, she meets the seductive Husseina, the Christian Tookie from Goa, and the eccentric “Mad Minnie” herself. Despite a two-week cram course in colloquial English, Anjali fails (in a hilarious way from the reader’s perspective) to land a job. And she faces other reality checks as well, including being dragged into the local police station and being completely duped by Husseina. 

Mukherjee explores Anjali’s issues with understanding and sympathy.

Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-618-64653-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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