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"Clear Light of Day"
by Anita Desai

Review by John Gabree

The partition of the Indian subcontinent into two nations has held sway over the Indian imagination for more than three decades. In fiction and in films, the troubles figure as watershed and as metaphor, having as much force for Indians today as the Civil War had for Americans at the turn of the last century, although with the important difference that the War Between the States left this country united rather than divided.

The shadow of partition falls heavily on the characters in this novel by the distinguished Bombay storyteller Anita Desai. In place of neo-Marxist realism or Kiplingesque Anita Desairomanticism, two favorite Indian modes, "Clear Light of Day" is a hauntingly beautiful story of a bourgeois family's struggle against the forces of disintegration. Two sisters, long separated by distance and life-style, take stock of their family's lives and their own. Tara, beautiful and worldly, has returned from living abroad as the wife of a diplomat. Bim, conventional and competent, has never left Old Delhi where she cares for their younger brother Baba. Their older brother, whose childhood ambition was to be a hero, has married a Moslem and become a successful businessman.

"Clear Light of Day" is an ironic title for a novel so preoccupied with the shadowy border between illusion and reality. Memory forever shields most events from the clear light of day. We who conduct our lives without apparent reference to the momentous times we inhabit will discover new ways of seeing ourselves as we wander in the dying gardens of this thoughtful, imaginative and expressively written book. (1985)

Buy Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai



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