August 8, 2009

Take Me India

Take Me Away Saturday

As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:
Sierra Leone
Sioux Nation

This week we are visiting the Asian nation of India. Click on the titles of the books to go to or Barnes & to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

Here is an easy to see map of India:
Click here for more information about India.

India by DK Publishing
Just 60 years after winning independence from British rule, India's economy is booming and the nation is fast becoming a leading global power. With a population of a billion people, India's society is as varied as its awe-inspiring landscape. Home to a dizzying array of languages, ethnic groups, beliefs, and lifestyles, India can seem overwhelming in its complexity. India takes the lid off this cultural melting pot, showing how past events have shaped this diverse but unified nation, where tradition and modernity successfully coexist. Through stunning photography and insightful text, India offers an eye-opening, thought-provoking, and authoritative visual guide to one of the world's most exciting and vibrant nations. Publisher: DK Publishing Genre: Travel Photography

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
Among the greatest novels of the twentieth century and the basis for director David Lean’s Academy Award-winning film, A Passage to India tells of the clash of cultures in British India after the turn of the century. In exquisite prose, Forster reveals the menace that lurks just beneath the surface of ordinary life, as a common misunderstanding erupts into a devastating affair. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Genre: Classics

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future. As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state. Publisher: Vintage Genre: Fiction; Oprah's Book Club Series (Thanks to Stephanie for this recommendation!)

Sister of My Heart: A Novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
From the award-winning author of Mistress of Spices, the bestselling novel about the extraordinary bond between two women, and the family secrets and romantic jealousies that threaten to tear them apart. Anju is the daughter of an upper-caste Calcutta family of distinction. Her cousin Sudha is the daughter of the black sheep of that same family. Sudha is startlingly beautiful; Anju is not. Despite those differences, since the day on which 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 were merged. But, when Sudha learns a dark family secret, that connection is shattered. For the first time in their lives, the girls know what it is to feel suspicion and distrust. Urged into arranged marriages, Sudha and Anju's lives take opposite turns. Sudha becomes the dutiful daughter-in-law of a rigid small-town household. Anju goes to America with her new husband and learns to live her own life of secrets. When tragedy strikes each of them, however, they discover that despite distance and marriage, they have only each other to turn to. Set in the two worlds of San Francisco and India, this exceptionally moving novel tells a story at once familiar and exotic, seducing readers from the first page with the lush prose we have come to expect from Divakaruni. Publisher: Anchor Genre: Fiction

Bollywood: The Indian Cinema Story by Nasreen Kabir
This is a comprehensive study of the most successful movie industry in the world, which has a very different style to its eponymous American counterpart. Including a collection of profiles of the top Bollywood stars, singers, writers, directors and producers, with previously unpublished interviews with all the key players, this is a guide to the Bollywood phenomenon. Publisher: Channel 4 Press Genre: Nonfiction, Entertainment

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
With sensuous prose, a dreamlike style infused with breathtakingly beautiful images and keen insight into human nature, Roy's debut novel charts fresh territory in the genre of magical, prismatic literature. Set in Kerala, India, during the late 1960s when Communism rattled the age-old caste system, the story begins with the funeral of young Sophie Mol, the cousin of the novel's protagonists, Rahel and her fraternal twin brother, Estha. In a circuitous and suspenseful narrative, Roy reveals the family tensions that led to the twins' behavior on the fateful night that Sophie drowned. Beneath the drama of a family tragedy lies a background of local politics, social taboos and the tide of history?all of which come together in a slip of fate, after which a family is irreparably shattered. Roy captures the children's candid observations but clouded understanding of adults' complex emotional lives. Rahel notices that "at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. The Big Things lurk unsaid inside." Plangent with a sad wisdom, the children's view is never oversimplified, and the adult characters reveal their frailties?and in one case, a repulsively evil power?in subtle and complex ways. While Roy's powers of description are formidable, she sometimes succumbs to overwriting, forcing every minute detail to symbolize something bigger, and the pace of the story slows. But these lapses are few, and her powers coalesce magnificently in the book's second half. Roy's clarity of vision is remarkable, her voice original, her story beautifully constructed and masterfully told. Publisher: Harper Perennial Genre: Women's Fiction; Family Saga Genre Fiction

The Feast of Roses: A Novel by Indu Sundaresan
Weaving another rich historical tapestry, Sundaresan offers a sequel to her first novel, The Twentieth Wife (2002), and it is based on the ascent of the exotic Mehrunnisa to the status of wife in the court of seventeenth-century emperor Jahangir of India. Smitten with the intellectually stimulating Mehrunnisa, the emperor is granting her liberties unheard of in the Mughal empire, and the officials are bristling with concern over the newest wife's influence. Mehrunnisa is shrewd enough to know that she must exert her will from behind the veil and allow her wishes to float like gentle waves into the sea of her husband's thoughts, but it is only a matter of time before envy and intrigue cloud her happiness. Although Mehrunnisa is the light of Jahangir's life, she must compete with the women of the harem for her place in the household and ultimately secure her political visions by surrounding herself with men she can trust. Sundaresan colors the life of a fascinating woman whose female wiles inspired the Taj Mahal. Publisher: Washington Square Press Genre: Historical Fiction

Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell
Having miraculously survived a serious illness and now at an impasse in her career as a magazine editor, Rich spontaneously accepted a free-lance writing assignment to go to India, where she found herself thunderstruck by the place and the language. Before she knew it she was on her way to Udaipur, a city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, in order to learn Hindi. In this inspirational memoir, Rich documents her experiences in India — ranging from the bizarre to the frightening to the unexpectedly exhilarating — using Hindi as the lens through which she is given a new perspective not only on India, but on the radical way the country and the language itself were changing her. Fascinated by the process, she went on to interview linguistics experts around the world, reporting back from the frontlines of the science wars on what happens in the brain when we learn a new language. Seamlessly combining Rich’s courageous (and often hilarious) personal journey with wideranging reporting, Dreaming in Hindi offers an eye-opening account of what learning a new language can teach us about distant worlds and, ultimately, ourselves. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Genre: Women's Biography

India (Countries of the World Series) by Michael Dahl

Young readers will experience the major countries of the world in this new series, brought to life by full-page photographs, maps, and inviting text. Each book is detailed and comprehensive, offering information on geography, economics and history, as well as foods, education, and cultural folk stories. This title discusses the history, landscape, people, animals, and culture of the country of India. Publisher: Coughlan Publishing Genre: Nonfiction, Age Range 4 to 8

Invisible Armies by Jon Evans

Evans, who has been carving a niche for himself as the author of travel thrillers—Dark Places (2004), The Blood Price (2005)—returns with another entertaining adventure. Danielle Leaf was just doing a favor for a friend, delivering a passport to a woman in India. Abducted and thrown in a dank cell, Danielle is utterly confused until a fellow prisoner explains that she has stumbled into the middle of a battle between a multinational mining company and a determined and potentially violent group of protestors. Escaping from their captors, Danielle and her new friend, the charming Laurent, run for safety. Moving at a brisk clip, the story ranges from rural India to Paris to London, blurring the line between good and evil along the way until it pretty much ceases to exist. Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur Genre: Fiction; Thriller

Folktales of India (Folktales of the World) by Brenda E.F. Beck, et. al.

The 111 tales chosen by translator and poet Ramanujan illustrate the heterogeneity of Indian society and its oral folktale tradition. Ranging in length from a few paragraphs to 10 pages, the short narratives fall into seven basic categories: male-, female- or family-centered; concerning either fate or the supernatural; humorous; animal tales; and metafiction. The stories are arranged in "cycles or sessions"--11 groupings containing at least one example of each of the seven themes. Additionally, the associative nature of the tales within each cycle further reinforces the storyteller illusion. Unlike myths, folktales are profane rather than sacred. Thus there are tales wherein humans outwit either gods or fate itself, and where the poor mock the rich (and the caste system). Two recurring characters are the jesters Tenali Rama and Ghopal Bhar, tricksters akin to the Western harlequin. According to Ramanujan, entertainment rather than education is the primary purpose of the folktale, a goal achieved by these stories even when they are also didactic. Publisher: University of Chicago Press Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, YA

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Do you want to share book recommendations that take readers to India? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back next week for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up for the next three Take Me Away Saturday posts:
August 15: A visit to the South American country of Brazil.
August 22: The culture of the Aborigines of Australia.
August 29: The African country of Egypt.

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:


  1. Wow...thats some list. Never heard of Dreaming in Hindi before. Thanks for highlighting so many books from India.

    I would recommend Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It's such an entertaining and fast read. Do read it if you haven't already.

  2. This is one of my favorite theme posts,I look forward to it every Saturday! The only one on the list I've read is The God of Small Things.
    Feast of Roses looks good. I'm currently reading East of the Sun, an historical fiction novel placed in India.

  3. Violet- Thanks for coming by! I will be sure to check out Shantaram.

    bookmagic- Thank you! I hope you review East of the Sun on your blog. I'd love to know what you think of it when you finish.

  4. A Fine Balance is one of my all-time favorite books. Such a beautiful story, and so well-written. I must re-read it one of these days.

    Another one of my favorite Indian books is Vikram Seth's an Equal Music. Oh, and I read Midnight's Children earlier on this year, and absolutely loved it. It was difficult to get into, but once I managed to, I was blown away.

    Thanks - this was a really interesting post.

  5. Your "Take Me Away" posts are just so fantastic!

    I have read the Divakaruni books - I really enjoyed them. I'd like to read more about the Ramayana story too, one of these days when my already too tall stack of books gets lower!

  6. Wow, these all look great and I just love books that are set in India. Thanks for sharing these with all of us!

  7. I also would recommend Shantaram. It perfectly shows the dark side of Mumbai, India's financial capital, during 70s and 80s. Fun, fast paced and entertaining. Most of all it is more informative than usual tourist guides about India.

  8. I too look forward to this every week. Such a great feature. The cover to Feast of Roses is just gorgeous and the book sounds most interesting. you really did a lot of research on this post and it is most appreciated. I just loved A Passage to India and supposedly I "snagged" a copy of East of the Sun from LibraryTHing but the book has never shown up. Rats! Looking forward to next week.

  9. I am in love with books that are about India. I read A Fine Balance a long time ago and it still is with me...powerful book. I picked up Sister of My Heart at my library last year for 50 cents. Now I need to get to reading it. I love the rest of the books you featured.

    Wanted you to know that your Japan post helped me to pick a book for the Japanese Lit. Challenge..Thanks!

  10. I have "A Fine Balance" in my TBR pile and I know I should read it soon!

    I love "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth. Even though it's a big book, I've read it twice.

    I also thought "Slumdog Millionare" (originally "Q and A") by Vikas Swarup was very good.

    Just got back from vacation, and one book I read during that time was "An Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's actually more about Indians in America, rather than taking place in India; but I loved this book and just had to mention it :-)!

  11. I loved The God of Small Things*****. I've also read:

    1.The White Tiger**** by Aravind Adiga
    2.The Weight of Heaven**** by Thrity Umrigar
    3.Life of Pi**** by Yann Martel
    4.A Backward Place***+ by Ruth P. Jhabvala
    5.Imaginary Homelands***** by Salman Rushdie (non fiction essays)
    6.Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World***** by Louis Fischer

    A Fine Balance and An Equal Music are on my tbr list. And I just got Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal from the library. I hope it's good.

    A great selection you've got there as usual. HAve a good week.

  12. I also loved The God of Small Things, The White Tiger, and Life of Pi. But my most favourite Indian book by a mile is A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. It's just too wonderful. My second faves are Rushdie's Midnight's Children and East, West.

  13. The book on Bollywood looks really fun. :) I've read some romances that part, at least in part, in Indian. One really good one was Her Only Desire by Gaelen Foley; and another one was The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran.

  14. take place at least in part--sorry, my typing skillz aren't up to par tonight.

  15. I love the cover of The Feast of Roses. When I was a little girl, my family was friends from a family from India. The mom always wore a sari, and had long hair all the way to her ankles. About the same time my mom had some National Geographics with articles and pictures from India. I remember seeing the pics of women with all the facial jewelry, especially the nose rings and I always though they were so beautiful, and since I was little I wanted a nose ring. This is in the 1960's - before the "nosering revolution". That's probably why I have TWO nose rings now.

  16. Hmmm, "An Equal Music"--is that the one by Vikram Seth? It isn't Indian at all. It's a good book, too, but I loved "A Suitable Boy" a lot more!

  17. Thank you all for your comments and feedback and recommendations! I am happy to know that you look forward to this feature each week. It makes the time it takes to research it absolutely worth it! Thanks so much!

  18. I've been plodding my way through A Fine Balance since my vacation in early July. I know it's supposed to be wonderful, but I'm not feeling it yet. Luckily, there are still hundreds of pages to get me there!

  19. I've just finished reading "The Weight of Heaven" by Thrity Umrigar. It was a beautifully written and complex story of an American couple who move to India. I wrote a review on my blog if you're interested:

  20. I also love Indian writers some of my FAVORITE
    are one night @call center, my three mistakes
    and some other books. Your blog is nice having some great information


Thank you for visiting! Leave a comment and share your thoughts with me!