This, Neel Mukherjee’s second novel, after his first won India’s equivalent of the Booker Prize, is a historical family saga centring on a political issue not consigned to history – namely, Naxalite (Indian Maoist) terrorism. Set predominantly in the late 1960s, it tells the story of the Ghosh family, whose relationships are bound by complex hierarchies of birth order, skin colour, gender and money. Mental and emotional walls subdivide Prafullanath Ghosh’s Calcutta mansion, and the floors that his five adult children and their families occupy make the hierarchy literal to them and just about comprehensible to us.
The first chapters set the reader up to wonder why none of the characters have the courage to rebel against all the feudalism, patriarchy and prejudice that deform their lives. This section lays subtle groundwork for the introduction of Supratik, the eldest son of Prafullanath’s eldest son, who leaves his