Title: The Immortals
Author: Amit Chaudhuri
Release Date: September 21, 2010
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Shyamji is a singer in 1980s Bombay who makes a living off the wealthy students to whom he gives voice lessons. The story centers on one of his pupils, Mallika, who has a beautiful voice, and her son, Nirmalaya, who forms a unique bond with Shyamji.
The Immortals is an interesting look at classical music in 1980s India. Specifically, classical music is the framework through which Chaudhuri discusses the change in culture in India during the time period. Where classical music was once revered, during the story, the reader can see how pop music is encroaching on its status, to the point where people don’t necessarily want to learn classical music anymore. Western culture is infecting Bombay, and the wealthy residents of the city welcome it with open arms. The entire book is a commentary on cultural change, whether through art, music, or philosophy.
Chaudhuri’s writing is breathtaking in The Immortals; readers are really in for a treat if they love gorgeous prose. His descriptions are incredibly vivid; the reader can see India when they close their eyes. I was very impressed with how truly Chaudhuri depicted Bombay of the 1980s, and how much he managed to convey through just his writing. His attention to detail is masterful, and as a result, this is a great pick for those interested in learning more about India in a time when its culture was transforming.
Though The Immortals centers and Shyamji and Mallika’s family, there are a lot of secondary characters that make appearances throughout the novel. As a result, the story can be really difficult to follow at times, and it takes some perseverance to fully grasp what is happening. Additionally, Chaudhuri uses Indian terms and colloquialisms without fully defining them. Though I was able to follow because I am familiar with the language and culture, it might be frustrating for someone new to books about India. As a result, while I do recommend this book for those who love novels about India, I wouldn’t start my literary travels through India with The Immortals.
Chaudhuri is a talented author, and I look forward to going back and reading his previous books. Though I did have some issues with The Immortals, I was impressed by the author’s writing talent, and would love to see what else he’s done. This was an interesting look at the changing of a culture through the prism of classical music.