Clear Light of Day

Current stop: India

The room rang with her voice, then with silence. In the shaded darkness, silence had the quality of a looming dragon. It seemed to roar and the roar to reverberate, to dominate. To escape from it would require a burst of recklessness, even cruelty.

I’ve loved pretty much every book I’ve read by Indian authors, so I was excited to read another. For this challenge I wanted to make sure I would read a book by an author that I have not yet read. But there are so many choices! So I enlisted the help of one of my friends, who is Indian and reads as avidly as I. He gave me a few suggestions, and I landed on Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai.

This is a dense novel that took me a while to read, even though it is less than 200 pages. The characters and dialogue were vividly real, but sometimes the story did get bogged down by the weight of the descriptions.

The novel focuses on the Das family, with focus alternating between two of the four siblings, daughters Bim and Tara. In the background is the partition of India, but that is not what the story is about. Instead, it is about a family, and the dynamics between each of the members as relationships slowly degrade. A variety of unfortunate circumstances cause Bim to become the Das family anchor, denied the chance to live an exciting life, like her sister Tara and brother Raja. There is mounting tension between Bim and Tara, but with Desai’s writing it easy to float back and forth between sympathizing more for one than the other.

Clear Light of Day is a beautiful novel in which not a lot happens but a lot is felt.

Next stop: Sri Lanka.

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