Book Review: An Atlas of Impossible Longing – Anuradha Roy

Title: An Atlas of Impossible Longing
Author: Anuradha Roy
ISBN: 9781451608625
Pages: 336
Release Date: April 5, 2011
Publisher: Free Press
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

An Atlas of Impossible Longing is a multigenerational novel spanning decades, following the course one family sets during the tumultuous early-to-mid twentieth century in India.  The novel begins with Amulya and his mentally ill wife Kananbala, and their two sons, Nirmal and Kamal.  As fortunes change and lives progress, the book moves onto the new generation, centering on Bakul, Nirmal’s daughter, and Mukunda, the orphan child Amulya chose to support.

Review:

I absolutely adore South Asian literature, but sometimes I have trouble taking it.  While wonderfully composed, it can be very difficult to read.  There is a sense of tragedy that seems to be inherent within the genre, centering on hardship, loss, and abuse.  But there is also beauty in this world, along with the heartbreak, and that’s why I loved The Atlas of Impossible Longing – it’s amazingly written, finely wrought, and simple.  It’s about the beauty and longing present in everyday life.

Roy is a talented writer; she is incredible at developing layered, nuanced characters effortlessly.  Readers fall in love with the personas contained within this book without realizing it.  Each person is distinct; sometimes it seems as though Roy is writing a biography rather than fiction because these people seem so real and vivid.  Her prose is absolutely gorgeous, yet restrained.  She doesn’t allow her words to overwhelm the story, nor does she rely on her prose to smooth out the rough parts of the plot.  She recognizes that her language is a tool to deliver a story, and uses it like a master to accomplish that task.

There are many characters within An Atlas of Impossible Longing, but the reader will have no trouble telling them apart, thanks to Roy’s expert character development.  My personal favorite was Mukunda; the reader gets to see him grow and change over the course of his life, to become his own man.  After he is sent away for school, he longs for Songarh and the life and people he left behind.  After he leaves school, his longing changes and fades, but it never completely leaves him.  When circumstances force him to revisit Songarh and see Nirmal and Bakul again, he can no longer deny what he feels.

There is heartbreak and difficulty and sadness within the pages of An Atlas of Impossible Longing; after all, this is a book about life, and that’s part of it.  But it’s handled so deftly and beautifully that it doesn’t drag the reader down.  Indeed, Roy confronts many difficult topics within the pages of this book:  caste, mental illness, love in a culture of arranged marriages.  It is incredibly realistic; there are no fairy tale endings.  Instead, Roy creates a believable picture that is often bittersweet, but has its own beauty nonetheless.

I cannot deliver enough praise to Anuradha Roy for crafting An Atlas of Impossible Longing.  This was a novel I absolutely adored from beginning to end.  It never lost my interest, and just when I would think that the sadness was too much to bear, a ray of light would shine through.  I loved the balance present in this novel, as well as the universal themes of love and longing.  This is a book accessible to anyone who has felt love and loss.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Comments

  1. Now I wish this had been a choice for book club!

  2. Now I wish this had been a choice for book club!

  3. I also love fiction of this kind, and from the way you describe it, this sounds like a wonderful book. It’s always a trick when there are so many characters, but to hear that the author develops each one uniquely makes me stand up and take notice. I am off to add this to my list of must reads. Thanks for the engaging and impressive review!

  4. I also love fiction of this kind, and from the way you describe it, this sounds like a wonderful book. It’s always a trick when there are so many characters, but to hear that the author develops each one uniquely makes me stand up and take notice. I am off to add this to my list of must reads. Thanks for the engaging and impressive review!

  5. Oh, this sounds wonderful. Adding it to my TBR list. Loved your review!

  6. Oh, this sounds wonderful. Adding it to my TBR list. Loved your review!

  7. I didn’t realize she had a new book out. Your review is great. Would luv to read the book.

  8. I didn’t realize she had a new book out. Your review is great. Would luv to read the book.

  9. Wow, a 5 star book! I’ve discovered lately that character development is really important to me. I’ll have to look for this book.

  10. Wow, a 5 star book! I’ve discovered lately that character development is really important to me. I’ll have to look for this book.

  11. When I say that I like South Asian authors, I always feel like that’s some sort of odd stereotyping, and I’ve tried to think of why so much of what I’ve read by those authors is SO good, but I think you sort of nailed it.

    It can be heavy, but those kinds of stories also seem to really stick with me.

    Jennifer
    http://www.5minutesforbooks.com

  12. When I say that I like South Asian authors, I always feel like that’s some sort of odd stereotyping, and I’ve tried to think of why so much of what I’ve read by those authors is SO good, but I think you sort of nailed it.

    It can be heavy, but those kinds of stories also seem to really stick with me.

    Jennifer
    http://www.5minutesforbooks.com

  13. Wow — I want to get this one now!

  14. Wow — I want to get this one now!

  15. Such a beautiful title.
    Will definitely look out for this book.
    Thanks for your review :-)

  16. Such a beautiful title.
    Will definitely look out for this book.
    Thanks for your review :-)

  17. This sounds amazing. What an incredible review, I will definitely be reading this one.

  18. This sounds amazing. What an incredible review, I will definitely be reading this one.

  19. This book sounds amazing and definitely one that I’ll add to my wish list.

  20. This book sounds amazing and definitely one that I’ll add to my wish list.

  21. I just got an email from the library saying this novel had come in. Thanks for recommending it! I’m so excited to read it and hope I like it as much as you did!

  22. I just got an email from the library saying this novel had come in. Thanks for recommending it! I’m so excited to read it and hope I like it as much as you did!

  23. Definitely adding this to my TBR list. Great review!

  24. Definitely adding this to my TBR list. Great review!

  25. Great review! I just got this from the library and I’m looking forward to reading it.

  26. Great review! I just got this from the library and I’m looking forward to reading it.

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