Shortlisted for the 2009 Commomwealth Writers' Prize Shroff's vibrant narratives in this concept collection of 14 stories set in contemporary Bombay feature a range of beautifully drawn characters in fascinating situations: from the laundrywallas
Bombay-born Shroff opens a window on that city's commercial bustle, "as lived in the heads of its people" (as his introduction puts it) one profession at a time. The opening "Dhobi Ghat," follows Mataprasad Mahadev, 53, delivering laundry, and establishes a pattern followed by later stories: a man (it's most often a man) is shown at work; his backstory then explains how he got there and leads to an ambiguous, open-ended conclusion. Whether wealthy tycoon, taxi driver or writer, modernization and globalization are eroding livelihoods, making previously unimpeachable choices untenable, and causing massive nostalgia. There are flashes of excellence here, as in the portrait of an elderly, neurotic army widow in "The Great Divide," but heavy symbolism weighs down some of the otherwise carefully nuanced portraits. Shroff proves adept at unraveling Bombay's rituals, rumors and rhythms from the inside out. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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St. Martin's Griffin
February 04, 2008
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