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All the Lives We Never Lived

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“In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.” So begins the story of Myshkin and his mother Gayatri, who is driven to rebel against tradition and follow her artist’s instinct for freedom. Freedom of a different kind is in the air across India. The fight against British rule is reaching a critical turn. The Nazis have come to power in “In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.” So begins the story of Myshkin and his mother Gayatri, who is driven to rebel against tradition and follow her artist’s instinct for freedom. Freedom of a different kind is in the air across India. The fight against British rule is reaching a critical turn. The Nazis have come to power in Germany. At this point of crisis, two strangers arrive in Gayatri’s town, opening up to her the vision of other possible lives. What took Myshkin’s mother from India to Dutch-held Bali in the 1930s, ripping a knife through his comfortingly familiar universe? Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, Myshkin comes to understand the connections between the anguish at home and a war-torn universe overtaken by patriotism. This enthralling novel tells a tragic story of men and women trapped in a dangerous era uncannily similar to the present. Its scale is matched by its power as a parable for our times.


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“In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.” So begins the story of Myshkin and his mother Gayatri, who is driven to rebel against tradition and follow her artist’s instinct for freedom. Freedom of a different kind is in the air across India. The fight against British rule is reaching a critical turn. The Nazis have come to power in “In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.” So begins the story of Myshkin and his mother Gayatri, who is driven to rebel against tradition and follow her artist’s instinct for freedom. Freedom of a different kind is in the air across India. The fight against British rule is reaching a critical turn. The Nazis have come to power in Germany. At this point of crisis, two strangers arrive in Gayatri’s town, opening up to her the vision of other possible lives. What took Myshkin’s mother from India to Dutch-held Bali in the 1930s, ripping a knife through his comfortingly familiar universe? Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, Myshkin comes to understand the connections between the anguish at home and a war-torn universe overtaken by patriotism. This enthralling novel tells a tragic story of men and women trapped in a dangerous era uncannily similar to the present. Its scale is matched by its power as a parable for our times.

30 review for All the Lives We Never Lived

  1. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    I've read all of Roy's four novels (the first one, 'An Atlas of Impossible Longing', twice), and was surprised (but kind of delighted) to find this most reminiscent of that debut work, rather than 'The Folded Earth' or her Booker-nominated 'Sleeping on Jupiter'. Regardless, it is always a sublime pleasure to read her luminous and luxurious prose, and am hoping that this year's Booker committee again sees fit to place her on the longlist, at the very least. The story is told in memory, from the p I've read all of Roy's four novels (the first one, 'An Atlas of Impossible Longing', twice), and was surprised (but kind of delighted) to find this most reminiscent of that debut work, rather than 'The Folded Earth' or her Booker-nominated 'Sleeping on Jupiter'. Regardless, it is always a sublime pleasure to read her luminous and luxurious prose, and am hoping that this year's Booker committee again sees fit to place her on the longlist, at the very least. The story is told in memory, from the perspective of a sixty-something horticulturist, nicknamed Myshkin after the Dostoevsky character, looking back on his formative years, and the sudden disappearance of his mother in the late '30s. In some ways, it seems that this is rather a slight thread to hang an entire 330 page novel on, but the book deepens and broadens out as one goes along, and becomes increasingly relevant when the encroaching fascism of Nazi Germany rears its ugly head (... providing an all too chilling echo of our own times). The last third of the book becomes an epistolary novel, consisting primarily of letters written by the mother, Gayatri, depicting what drove her to leave her home and son in search of both intellectual and artistic freedom, and although I had some problems with how lapidary those letters prove to be, Roy's skill makes you accept them as something that Gayatri could conceivably have written. And she 'sticks the ending' beautifully. A book I am sure I will eventually re-read (especially if it does make that Booker list), and it will probably make my top 5 books of the year list also. PS: Kudos for how beautifully bound the book is, and for that gorgeous cover illustration.

  2. 3 out of 5

    Will

    I can easily see this novel ending up as one of my favorite books of the year. It is the 2nd book in a row that I have given 5 stars, the 1st being Tim Winton’s The Shepard’s Hut. Roy’s novel joins Winton’s in being one I would be happy to see on the Booker longlist (which, as I write this, is only 23 days away). I can only hope such a winning reading streak continues for me. So…I am tempted to leave it at that and allow future readers to discover the beauty of this novel on their own. For some I can easily see this novel ending up as one of my favorite books of the year. It is the 2nd book in a row that I have given 5 stars, the 1st being Tim Winton’s The Shepard’s Hut. Roy’s novel joins Winton’s in being one I would be happy to see on the Booker longlist (which, as I write this, is only 23 days away). I can only hope such a winning reading streak continues for me. So…I am tempted to leave it at that and allow future readers to discover the beauty of this novel on their own. For some reason I’m finding this novel to be one that is difficult to review for fear of spoiling its many mysteries and pleasures. I know I could add a spoiler alert, but that isn’t my style. I’ll give it a try - In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman. Since this is the opening line of the novel, I think I can safely tell you that the narrator, now a man in his 60’s, is looking back at his childhood and attempting to understand why his mother abandoned him, piecing together the events that brought about that abandonment. This abandonment is the force behind the novel’s major theme - a look at how the suppression of a woman’s freedom, her interests and artistry, can lead to an action that negatively impacts many lives for years. This is the main theme and story, yes, but the novel is not that simple. It explores other political themes of personal liberty as well. Set primarily in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, against the backdrop of the rise of Nazi Germany, World War II and the beginnings of India’s fight for independence, there is much in this novel concerning freedom and these events play a significant role in the characters' lives. Gayatri, the runaway mother, writes in a letter to a friend: How it tears its way in by its fingernails - I mean politics - & shreds your life to pieces. That really hit me. Roy’s depiction of a creeping Fascism is frightening and certainly relevant to right now. It is uncanny how she conjures disturbing images that are mirrored in our current daily news cycle. Historical people pop up in the novel. Some, such as the German painter Walter Spies, play a significant role in the lives of the fictional characters. Ignorance on my part, perhaps, but I was not familiar with Spies or several of the others that appear. If you are like me and like to google the pictures of the real-life people while reading, I would strongly advise, for this novel, not to read their biographies if their lives are unknown to you. Hope I haven’t slipped and given too much away. I also hope that this novel finds many readers. A big recommendation from me. The writing is gorgeous - a beautiful, heartbreaking story told with great intelligence, control and restraint.

  3. 3 out of 5

    ns510

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 3.5 stars. “In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.” Vacillated between 3.5 to 4 stars. It was a solid 4 stars as I was reading it - lovely prose, thoughtful and almost philosophical writing - but I didn’t particularly seek it when I had put it down, and now that it’s been some time since I’ve finished it, I find it hasn’t lingered in my mind as long as I thought it might. To be fair, I’ve been a bit busy and perhaps didn’t have as much brain space or e 3.5 stars. “In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.” Vacillated between 3.5 to 4 stars. It was a solid 4 stars as I was reading it - lovely prose, thoughtful and almost philosophical writing - but I didn’t particularly seek it when I had put it down, and now that it’s been some time since I’ve finished it, I find it hasn’t lingered in my mind as long as I thought it might. To be fair, I’ve been a bit busy and perhaps didn’t have as much brain space or emotional availability for this at the time. Still, it kept me engrossed enough to read to the end. An accomplished story told from the perspective of Myshkin, an older man reminiscing on his youth, oblivious to the realities of 1930s India, pre-independence and pre-wartime. At the age of ten, his mother Gayatri leaves him, an event that upends his world, just as India, and the world itself gradually begins to upend itself through instability and the looming threat of war. Gayatri is a woman before her time, as was her father, and when he dies, she ends up married to a man who fancies himself her rescuer, a lecturer and an activist fighting for the county’s freedom, while being an oppressor at home. Then she has Myshkin, and it seemed she felt even more stifled. “As an old man trying to understand my past, I am making myself read of others like her, I am trying to view my mother somewhat impersonally, as a rebel who might be admired by some, an artist with a vocation so intense she chose it over family and home. As a child abandoned without explanation, I had felt nothing but rage, misery, confusion.” This is the story about reckoning with your past, shaping it to suit you, and making peace with the life that you then choose to live. It highlights how no one is left unscathed in times of turmoil, be it on a personal level or on a global scale such as in wartime (“I suppose when countries are at war, our lives are not our own any more even if the war is a million miles away.”). Yet, art and creativity can be a source of beauty, a balm, no matter the circumstance, even as it may be seen to be frivolous by others. I found it to be a unique story as I was reading it, thinking wow what made the author want to write a story based across borders like this. India and Bali? I really didn’t know too much about this period in India’s history. But then by the end, I realised that the foreigners that had arrived in India to seek out Gayatri were based on actual historical figures (Walter Spies, Beryl de Zoete...), and that there were a few other fictionalised versions of real historical artists besides (Rabindranath Tagore, Begum Akhtar). That was a pleasure to learn and then read up about, but I was also glad to not have known about them prior to reading this. I don’t think it would have made too much of a difference if I had either. By the end of the book, we get more of a perspective on the woman Gayatri was. This is again at a distance, via letters she had sent her best friend. This feels poetic, since Myshkin has lost the opportunity to truly know her himself (though personally, I wouldn’t mind a break from epistolary plot devices!).

  4. 3 out of 5

    Avishek Bhattacharjee

    কোথাও আমার হারিয়ে যাওয়ার নেই মানা... I can only remember this song while writing a short review of this exceptional piece of art.Recently I have read Chinatown which was like an epic and now "All the lives we never lived".The best part of this book is the overlap of history and fiction.The content of a tormented tortured nation, world war, love story , ruins and remnants of war, famous personalities evokes a sense of peculiar attachment with the read. Anuradha Roy's immaculate research , vivid de কোথাও আমার হারিয়ে যাওয়ার নেই মানা... I can only remember this song while writing a short review of this exceptional piece of art.Recently I have read Chinatown which was like an epic and now "All the lives we never lived".The best part of this book is the overlap of history and fiction.The content of a tormented tortured nation, world war, love story , ruins and remnants of war, famous personalities evokes a sense of peculiar attachment with the read. Anuradha Roy's immaculate research , vivid description of the locales of our country and Bali with the nature binding prose is very similar to poetry. I always feel creating characters for any novel is a humongous task and when a reader can relate to those characters, with their flaws and mistakes, with their happiness and hatred, that palpable sense of loss and longings; there lies the success of an author. This novel has much to offer. Readers will get a glimpse of deep sense of human emotions, bonding , principles at the utmost torrid times; freedom from a woman's perspective and the story of a boy who has lost everything. The story of Myshkin and his mother Gayatri, its rebellious, alluring artist-heroine who is driven to abandon home ,marriage and follow her primal instinct for freedom. What follows is Gayatri's life as pieced together by her son( a semi-epistolary touch makes it more intriguing), a never ending journey and a hope of reunion and love. So as Sumana Roy has mentioned at the back cover of this novel- 'If you've ever lost something, you must read this novel.If you've ever found something you lost, you must read this novel too.'

  5. 3 out of 5

    Manreet Someshwar

    All The Lives We Never Lived, Anuradha Roy’s fourth novel, published by Hachette India, is the story of an elderly man, with the unusual name of Myshkin Rozario, looking back upon his life as he attempts to piece together the jigsaw of his mother’s abrupt disappearance when he was a child. The narrative is set amidst the turmoil of 1930s pre-independent India when freedom struggle is ratcheting up. Obviously, Gandhi lingers in the background, as do the Nazis and Hitler, while Rabindranath Tagore All The Lives We Never Lived, Anuradha Roy’s fourth novel, published by Hachette India, is the story of an elderly man, with the unusual name of Myshkin Rozario, looking back upon his life as he attempts to piece together the jigsaw of his mother’s abrupt disappearance when he was a child. The narrative is set amidst the turmoil of 1930s pre-independent India when freedom struggle is ratcheting up. Obviously, Gandhi lingers in the background, as do the Nazis and Hitler, while Rabindranath Tagore makes a cameo as Rabi Babu. This novel has Roy’s trademark features that have won her previous books critical acclaim and commercial success: lyrical lucid prose, fully realized characters, a flawed female protagonist, sensuous evocation of a bygone era, a quiet examination of the myriad fissures of India. From its arresting opening — “In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman. The man was in fact German, but in small-town India in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as British” — the narrative sweeps you along. Gayatri Rozario, young, beautiful, gifted, troubled, is taken under the wing by the enigmatic Beryl de Zoete who is traveling the world writing on dance. Her companion, Walter Spies, is a German who has fled Germany, horrified by war and the Nazis, and turned to naturalism in the bounty of lush Bali. Why did his mother abandon her home and her child and flee to Dutch-ruled Bali with Beryl and Spies? This question drives Myshkin and the narrative, which is an extended meditation on the idea of freedom and how it can mean different things for different people: a nation, a woman, a non-native. Nek Rozario, Myshkin’s father, occupied with the struggle for India’s freedom, cannot fathom why his wife would not model herself more on Mukti Devi, local leader of the movement. The mismatched couple are years apart, Gayatri having been married off at eighteen when her loving father died suddenly. His mother departs, his father is jailed, and Myshkin is brought up by Dada, his doctor grandfather in the company of Liza McNally, a family friend who feeds him cakes. Myshkin grows up to be a horticulturist, confounding the expectations of his father who believes a newly-independent India requires engineers, not gardeners. Two-thirds in, the narrative becomes epistolary when Myshkin receives a bundle of letters written by his mother and we start to glean her reasons for leaving. At a languid pace, we learn of Gayatri’s life in Bali, her budding career as a painter, the buildup of tension due to war, the confinement of Walter Spies in British-allied and Dutch-ruled Bali, Gayatri’s attempts to stay afloat as the paradise around her collapses… At its heart, All The Lives We Never Lived is an examination of the roles that define and constrain an individual, tempered as these roles are by the expectations of others. If Gayatri had never left, how different would Myshkin’s life be? If Gayatri was more the type of wife and woman Nek desired? If Nek was less of a political dabbler? If the war had not interceded? Set in a small town called Muntazir, literally “to wait,” the novel evokes a bygone era, when a Mr Ishikawa, a Ms McNally, a Brijen Chacha were neighbors, not others, and India was cosmopolitan in spirit, the shrill demands of nationalism still at bay. P.S. I read the book's ARC and interviewed the author for Punch magazine. You can read it here: http://thepunchmagazine.com/the-bywor...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tommi

    Review to come later.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hansda Shekhar

    This novel is quite an achievement. There is history, there are cameos by famous people from the past, there is a love story, there is a family drama, there is a search, there are also current affairs and environmental issues, and all of it in an engrossing, moving, tear-jerking read. The action takes place in India and Bali, the canvas is huge, and Anuradha Roy keeps it all in place as she seems to surpass her own excellence. I totally loved "All The Lives We Never Lived". (This is a somewhat ex This novel is quite an achievement. There is history, there are cameos by famous people from the past, there is a love story, there is a family drama, there is a search, there are also current affairs and environmental issues, and all of it in an engrossing, moving, tear-jerking read. The action takes place in India and Bali, the canvas is huge, and Anuradha Roy keeps it all in place as she seems to surpass her own excellence. I totally loved "All The Lives We Never Lived". (This is a somewhat expanded version of my review on Amazon Kindle. I read the Kindle version of the Indian edition published by Hachette India in May 2018.) From Sleeping on Jupiter to this book, Roy seems to be bettering her own brilliance. Though the narration is effortless, Roy’s research and imagination in recreating a bygone era shines out. This is an excellent, unputdownable book. Here is my review published in The Hindu Literary Review on Sunday, 27-May-2018: http://www.thehindu.com/books/an-ode-...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eithne Murray

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Roy's book starts slowly and. inconsequentially. By the end she has created a work about familial relationships, politics, nationalism and its effect on the family, all within the framework of the Second World War. Thematically, it is partially reminiscent of Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, where the artist's will for self and familial expression is deemed unpatriotic by the System. Nek (NC) is reminiscent of Pasha, Lara's young husband, in that he is committed to the cause, and wishes his young Roy's book starts slowly and. inconsequentially. By the end she has created a work about familial relationships, politics, nationalism and its effect on the family, all within the framework of the Second World War. Thematically, it is partially reminiscent of Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, where the artist's will for self and familial expression is deemed unpatriotic by the System. Nek (NC) is reminiscent of Pasha, Lara's young husband, in that he is committed to the cause, and wishes his young wife to be more mindful of the political situation in her everyday life. However he lacks Pasha's zealotry. This may not be a far-fetched comparison, as the narrator's nickname is inspired by Dostoevsky Initially the reader is aware of Myshkin's melancholic sense of loss at the disappearance of his mother, soon followed by the temporary disappearance of his father for ascetic reasons. Neither parent elicits our sympathy. Toward the end of the novel there appears to be a shift in the narrator's thinking. He reads his mother's letters for the first time and he reads about her need for artistic impression. He recalls his father's dismissiveness at his choice of occupation - horticulture, a love that fills his life. He was so disparaged he failed to turn up at his father's funeral to 'perform the sacred duty of a son'. By the end he seems to have come to a sort of acceptance: We see him revelling in his ability to draw and paint plants. In the end it leaves the reader with the sense that he identifies now with his mother's artistic side, which in him is evident in his creation of landscapes which may take 40 years to mature. The title of the book underlines the haunting sense of loss of his mother, a life that has been circumscribed by 'What if'; What if he had made it home on time from school that day. The depiction of women and nationalism resonates with me this week in particular, as I have just attended a talk on suffragism in Ireland. It seems the republican ideal of the most influential politicians was to get the colonials out, with no thought given to the rights individuals might need. In the same way, Myshkin's father is depicted as being preoccupied with 'The Cause', which only comprised a change of government as opposed to changes of rights. This review is only skimming the surface of the book. It is a commentary on art, on values - both artistic and social; on othering of groups - culminating in arrests by the Dutch colonists. I'll remember this book for some time to come.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bill Berger

    Wonderful novel set in the Raj about a young boy, his mother and their family’s dealing with politics, infidelity and his coming of age. Highly recommended

  10. 3 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I know I probably should have enjoyed this book but I struggled with it! It took me well over 100 pages to “get into it”. I had trouble understanding the characters and their choices, especially the mother in this book. The writing is well done but this book wasn’t for me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    dpcinh

    Lovely lyrical work! I picked it up as the author lived in Ranikhet. This was a sleepy cantonment town in the sylvan Kumaon hills where I spent my childhood. Alas, it has now turned as congested and raucous as Paharganj. So where is the fictional Muntajar? It seems to be an amalgam of Haldwani, Raiwala, Kotdwar and Ramnagar. I enjoyed the sojourn of Myshkin's great-grandfather in Harsil. Plan to read other works of this brilliant talented author.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Subowal

    The narrator of the story is the curiously named Myshkin Rozario. The story, however, is more about Gayatri, Myshkin's mother, who left home when Myshkin was 9 years old. Myshkin grew up in the 1930s in a large sprawling old house with only his grandfather, parents and servants. The grandfather, fondly named Batty Rozario, is a doctor and a more relaxed person than his son Nek Chand, who is into the freedom movement and believes life is meaningful only in pursuit of higher purpose. This makes him The narrator of the story is the curiously named Myshkin Rozario. The story, however, is more about Gayatri, Myshkin's mother, who left home when Myshkin was 9 years old. Myshkin grew up in the 1930s in a large sprawling old house with only his grandfather, parents and servants. The grandfather, fondly named Batty Rozario, is a doctor and a more relaxed person than his son Nek Chand, who is into the freedom movement and believes life is meaningful only in pursuit of higher purpose. This makes him preachy and sententious, much to the dislike of his wife Gayatri who could have said, as attributed to Winston Churchill describing Stafford Cripps: "He has all the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire." Gayatri grew up as the youngest child and the only daughter in a family where the youngest of her brothers is at least a decade older than her. Her father doted on her and saw to it that she got enough opportunities to develop the artistic side of her personality - even taking her on a ship to Bali so that she could be in the company of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore who was also on the same ship. Father died when she was still young and her brothers offloaded her onto Nek Chand when he came around - despite the age difference. What they didn't realize, or didn't bother about, was that she had an independence of spirit that would ill adjust to marriage with anyone, much less a moralist like Nek Chand. Gayatri feels caged in the house. Enter Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete - a German man and a British woman - who become friendly with the family, with the exception of Nek Chand, who barely tolerates them, but doesn't prevent his wife from mixing with them. They are both artistic and Gayatri gets along famously with both of them. A few months later she quits her home and husband with the two of them. She had plans of taking Myshkin with her, but that day he got late in returning from school and she couldn't wait. Myshkin grows with the opprobrium of her mother's scandal. On the surface his father bears the shock well, and allows him to correspond with his mother. His wife's desertion has, however, shaken up Nek Chand and shortly after the disappearance of his wife he leaves home on a journey to find the 'truth'. He returns without really finding it, but having acquired another wife and a step-daughter. The timeline of the book zigzags back and forth. The two major time periods are the thirties as the world moves into the second world war, and the eighties when Myshkin is sixty and looking back at his life. Most of the story is told through his writing, though there are parts of Gayatri's life narrated through her letters. The story is about how Gayatri and Myshkin cope with the aftermath of Gayatri's desertion. Gayatri feels guilty, she is often homesick, and she has plans to coming back to take Myshkin with her. Myshkin seems to carry the weight of the scandal without too much apparent damage - except for his failure to marry or get into a stable relationship. Anuradha Roy handles the story and the characters very well. She doesn't offer any defense for Gayatri, but we empathize with her. We don't really sympathize with Nek Chand. I learned from the author's afterword that Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete are real historical persons. Walter Spies's house in Aceh, Indonesia is a tourist attraction. Beryl de Zoete has written books on dances of South and East Asia. Overall, it has been a satisfying introduction to Anuradha Roy's work. Her other books have come on my reading list.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mira

    3.5 stars. “All the Lives We Never Lived” by Anuradha Roy is the tale of Myshkin, and his mother Gayatri, who runs away when Myshkin is 9 years old. Gayatri is trapped, a prisoner metaphorically speaking, in a life in which she does not belong, within the greater context of India and its people being trapped within the British Empire. The wheels are set in motion for the Second World War and the rise of Hitler, but all of those things seem far away for the moment. Will Myshkin ever come to terms 3.5 stars. “All the Lives We Never Lived” by Anuradha Roy is the tale of Myshkin, and his mother Gayatri, who runs away when Myshkin is 9 years old. Gayatri is trapped, a prisoner metaphorically speaking, in a life in which she does not belong, within the greater context of India and its people being trapped within the British Empire. The wheels are set in motion for the Second World War and the rise of Hitler, but all of those things seem far away for the moment. Will Myshkin ever come to terms with his mother’s disappearance and her truths? This novel is about freedom of different kinds. Gayatri struggles for a freedom that is not gifted to her by her husband, though she is particularly unconcerned with the Nationalist movement, much to her husband’s ire. She is trapped within his rules, his desires for the way she should be, and she strains against his dominance of their prescribed way of life. These freedoms clash because in joining the movement of the fight for Indian independence she must give up her own freedoms and live in a way that counters the very way she operates. Myshkin too, struggles with this in his own way. It’s also about how events occur and the nature of memories - Myshkin must come to terms with what his mother did - and understand it and process it in his own way: even all these years later. He must see her as she was and what drove her in order to understand her. The nature of memories is often non linear and fuzzy and sometimes we avoid the painful ones, and we see Myshkin muddle through this process over the course of the novel. Roy’s depiction of childhood memories and Myshkin’s imagination is rich and adds many layers and complexities to his character and to the story line. The story drags at points but ultimately becomes more interesting and draws you in. The characters are compelling and that makes up for the sometimes slower pace of the plot. There is something that Roy touches on: a characteristic or personality quirk that attaches much more meaning to the natural world and all things beyond human: a world beyond human ephemera. I’m sure many creative people and daydreamers (of which I am one) might identify with this - though I cannot quite articulate what this is. Overall I had higher expectations of this, after reading another one of her books: “Sleeping on Jupiter.” This novel does stand on its own but it definitely was not my favourite by her. I do want to read her earlier works for comparison though, and I will definitely share my thoughts on here.

  14. 3 out of 5

    Keen

    2.5 Stars! “I don’t mind. This is what I’m leaving the world, I think to myself in grandiose moments such as these, when I sit with paper and pen before me, only the words, I, Myshkin Chand Rozario, written down. I am leaving the world trees that cover the town with shade, fruit, flowers. I am old enough to have watched saplings I planted grow into trees forty feet high.” Fiction and history overlap in here. This is a tale filled with quirky and charming characters as well as more sinister element 2.5 Stars! “I don’t mind. This is what I’m leaving the world, I think to myself in grandiose moments such as these, when I sit with paper and pen before me, only the words, I, Myshkin Chand Rozario, written down. I am leaving the world trees that cover the town with shade, fruit, flowers. I am old enough to have watched saplings I planted grow into trees forty feet high.” Fiction and history overlap in here. This is a tale filled with quirky and charming characters as well as more sinister elements too. The main character looks back on his childhood in India. A problem with the technique of people thinking back to the distant past, is when people then think back from that past to a further past, and what I found at times with this was that I got lost within stories within stories and histories within histories, and it got a little cluttered with too many characters. “Some people have no time for what doesn’t match their view of the world. They think they know all there is to know and nobody can bring them anything new. They squeeze the joy out of life, dry it up, and chop it into a set of pellets they call rules. What is a good picture, what is a good book, what is the food you should eat-they know it all.” The unfortunate protagonist is lumbered with two appallingly ill-equipped, excuses for parents who appear to treat the job of parenting as a passing fad and disregard it in order to go onto lead the life they want, with little to no regard for their own son. But of course as we see in here, there is a lot more to it than this. Roy’s description really gives us a sense of the tropical surroundings of Bali and India, at times we are treated to a sensory buffet as the exotic fauna and flora is brought to life with a pleasing flourish. There is plenty of political commentary in here too, but I found that there were too many times where I was wondering where this story was really going, and I found we were taking up a lot of time and pages to not get very far at all, a problem I have found with other sub-continental writers. There is a fine line between epic story-telling and waffling. I am not saying that Roy waffles in here, but there certainly was no epic story-telling.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “All the Lives We Never Lived”, by Anuradha Roy, published by Atria Books. Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – November 20, 2018. This novel takes place in India as the country is striving to gain its independence from Great Britain. The first thing I would suggest is to get your India/English dictionary out and your book on Botany. Gayatri is a young woman who is feeling her independence but tragedy strikes and her family must find a husband for her. Although she is reluctant to take a “All the Lives We Never Lived”, by Anuradha Roy, published by Atria Books. Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – November 20, 2018. This novel takes place in India as the country is striving to gain its independence from Great Britain. The first thing I would suggest is to get your India/English dictionary out and your book on Botany. Gayatri is a young woman who is feeling her independence but tragedy strikes and her family must find a husband for her. Although she is reluctant to take a husband she tries to make the best of it. She has a young son, Myshkin, who she adores but still feels hemmed in by her marriage. One day two Europeans find their way into her life and convince her to leave her unwanted marriage and follow them to adventure. Gayatri wants to bring her son but due to a mishap she leaves him behind. Although she pines for her old life she becomes infatuated with her new life as she explores her talent of art. The story slogs along for about two thirds of the book but really starts to pick up when Gayatri pours her thoughts out in letters to her sister. There is a good story here but long in its coming, most readers will not be around for the ending.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    An interesting and worthwhile read. I chose this book because, I'm guessing, I had loved Mukherjee's "The Lives of Others" as it has a similar title and is set in the Punjab. Nothing here overtly of the many struggles people have thrown themselves into on the subcontinent but the drumbeat under the story of a man's life told through his reflections on his delightful mother's story is the approach of inevitable war against Hitler and the Japanese. The plot hinges on that. The male (boy and man) na An interesting and worthwhile read. I chose this book because, I'm guessing, I had loved Mukherjee's "The Lives of Others" as it has a similar title and is set in the Punjab. Nothing here overtly of the many struggles people have thrown themselves into on the subcontinent but the drumbeat under the story of a man's life told through his reflections on his delightful mother's story is the approach of inevitable war against Hitler and the Japanese. The plot hinges on that. The male (boy and man) narrator is believable but a change in the speaking voice about halfway through via Gayatri's letters to a close friend expressing her inmost hopes and desires is very welcome and a successful device. Gayatri ("Gay") lives up to her name in the old-fashioned sense of seeming to herself light enough to float away from family but driven to express her artistic self against a stifling marriage to a controlling man; to be autonomous. Unusual in those pre-war times. As often in novels set in India the characters seem a bit crazy, almost as though the influence of the English had unleashed an eccentricity that could become caricature. The father, Nek, when he wasn't controlling was absent on a spiritual journey with callous disregard for his wife or his son. Mishkin, the son, pines for his mother, tries to find consolation in his daily work of being a boy and finally understands his mother's odyssey.

  17. 3 out of 5

    Kim

    Deeply moving and beautifully written this "memoir" of a young boy growing into manhood after his mother's abandonment is a worthy of your time .Poignant and bittersweet it touches the heart and leaves you feeling sympathy for all of the characters as they face life each from their own perspective just as we all do in reality ,sometimes not realizing the impact our view of the world has on others .This novel is definitely not like anything I've read before.The tone is somber because the subject Deeply moving and beautifully written this "memoir" of a young boy growing into manhood after his mother's abandonment is a worthy of your time .Poignant and bittersweet it touches the heart and leaves you feeling sympathy for all of the characters as they face life each from their own perspective just as we all do in reality ,sometimes not realizing the impact our view of the world has on others .This novel is definitely not like anything I've read before.The tone is somber because the subject is somber but still the narrative flows freely yet not heavily as you enter Myskin's memories and experience his emotions as he experiences them.I highly recommend it as a book club pick as well .It has plenty of interesting topics and strong characters to discuss making it a perfect choice .Kudos to the author for making me finish a type of book I normally shy away from and for letting me write a positive review.

  18. 3 out of 5

    Lynn

    Thank you for making this title available. Unfortunately, the further I read, the more I was convinced that this was not the kind of book that I would enjoy. This is no criticism whatsoever of the plot, characters, writing style, setting, or the author. Merely a statement of my own preferences.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vani Kalra

    Good writing and lovely prose

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pat Morris-jones

    Wonderful. Would like to give it 4 and a half. Not quite 5 star, can’t quite explain why. But close

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    DNF @ 15%. This book appears to be as generic as it's title, too many cliches already. And it's all tell tell tell.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nikita Nautiyal

    3.5 .

  23. 3 out of 5

    Val

    Myshkin's mother, Gayatri, leaves home when he is a boy. Many years later, elderly Myshkin looks back at his memories and reinterprets them. The personal history of the family is set against a wider historical context of India in the 1930s and '40s. Most of the book is set between the passing of The Government of India Act in 1935 and full independence in 1947, and includes the impact of the Second World War. The family relationships are central to the book, as experienced by young Myshkin and as Myshkin's mother, Gayatri, leaves home when he is a boy. Many years later, elderly Myshkin looks back at his memories and reinterprets them. The personal history of the family is set against a wider historical context of India in the 1930s and '40s. Most of the book is set between the passing of The Government of India Act in 1935 and full independence in 1947, and includes the impact of the Second World War. The family relationships are central to the book, as experienced by young Myshkin and as assessed by his older self. His father is a follower of Gandhi's austere but non-violent Satyagraha movement and regards Gayatri's art as nothing more than a hobby, while to her it is essential. He is not a cruel man (to her, although his treatment of his second wife is worse), but he cannot understand Gayatri or make her happy. History and geography are important to understanding the overall story, but they do not dwarf the human one. I was sorry not to see this novel on the Booker long list.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sridhar

  26. 5 out of 5

    Simba

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shabina

  28. 5 out of 5

    Siva Kuppusamy

  29. 3 out of 5

    Arathi Menon

  30. 3 out of 5

    Vidya S Veeresh

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