Beautiful descriptive writing, the taste and feel of India drips off the page, but not a nice story.

Exquisetly written and totally evocative of modern day India, still caught it would seem between the demands of the consumerist 21st century, and the deep rooted spiritulism at the core of what India is all about. I loved the writing, the drawing of the characters, the small and minute detail of each of them and the exchanges that take place between them. Amidst the chaos of modern day India, it is the intimacy of the relationships between people, the ties that bind, that stand out so much in this story.

But it is not a nice story, and throughout there is an undertone of menace, of impending disaster, and as the Guardian reviewer put it, 'violence and misogyny abound'. Such a prevalent theme in novels of India.

Nomita, now a young woman, has returned to India, having left at about the age of 12, when she was fostered/adopted by a woman in Norway. When she was about 6 or 7, she lost her entire family during a time of violence, was rescued with a number of other young girls from a boat and they were all placed in the care of a highly respected and adored spiritual leader at his ashram. His good name is of course a cover for a range of abuse that takes place at the ashram and the girls are among the victims. Nom's whole childhood is pretty grim, including her time in Norway, and now as a young woman she wishes to find some closure by returning to the ashram, abandoned and derelict. The town itself is still a major pilgrimage destination and floods of tourists visit.

As a result Nom runs into other characters in the story including 3 elderly women travelling together to make a once in a lifetime pilgrimage, a photographer travelling with Nom who is also using the visit to make a documentary about the town and its sacred sites, a young man who is a tourist guide at the very famous temple everyone is visiting, a chai-wallah and his young assistant. All around is the dust, the noise, the crowds of people, the colour of saris, the smell of spices, as the interactions between all these people unfolds. There isn't a great deal of plot, and the whole thing is really pretty grim, but as I say, the writing is gorgeous.

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