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   House of Blue Mangoes, The, by David J. Davidar  
  Novel, first publication in March 2002
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      A memorable experience is in store for the reader of David Davidar's The House of Blue Mangoes. In a similar fashion to Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, Davidar's ambitious India-set novel relates many stories in one, each ineluctably merging into the other. We are shown three generations of an old family in the oceanside village of Chevathar. The patriarch Solomon strives to maintain equilibrium as caste struggles begin to create harsh conflict in the village, while his sons endure triumph and disaster as India inaugurates its battle for independence and his grandson, who may be the last of the line, undertakes his own bid for independence. All of these characters are drawn with a mercurial vividness, and Davidar has a Tolstoyan sense of the larger canvas--his epic covers the spectrum of heroes and rogues, clans and dynasties, the ugly and the beautiful.

    The narrative, alternately measured and hectic, enfolds assassinations and passionate affairs, exorcisms and beggars' banquets in a rich weave. Davidar's models are often stories from India's great epics, but the fascination of the everyday is never overlooked, from making a perfect cup of tea to whipping up a flavorsome biryani. Along with the tribulations of the protagonists, we are shown the various strategies Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill used in their battles, and we see how the English memsahibs played their part in the downfall of the Raj. The mangoes of India, a key image in the novel, suggest the heady, ripe taste of this engrossing and thoroughly individual novel.

    Source: Barry Forshaw,

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  • Literary Fantasy

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