India has been the birthplace of fantastic stories that have been told over and over again with many iterations. Many of those stories have become part of folklore and still many others are being added to that vast treasure of stories that have Indian roots.
Here are seven new stories, rather novels – novels that tell extremely different and diverse stories ranging from fictitious cities to a man’s hunt for land and identity to a woman’s hunt for answers – that you must read this year.
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
If you haven’t already read Abraham Verghese’s The Covenant of Water, then this should ideally be the first book for you to read this year. The novel begins in 1900 and finds its conclusion in the year 1977. Set in Kerala on India’s Malabar Coast, the novel follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning. Shuttling between the past and the present, over countries and continents, Verghese weaves a tale of love, loneliness, longing, and death, interspersed with moments of wit, humour, and joy.
Victory City by Salman Rushdie
Victory City is Salman Rushdie’s first book after a near-fatal attack on him. The novel, the final edits of which Rushdie had submitted before the attack, revolves around Pampa Kampana, a 9-year-old orphaned girl who is gifted magical powers by a goddess and goes on to create one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world called Bisnaga (Victory City or Vijayanagara). The novel traces the rise and rise of the city before its ultimate downfall and ruin.
Western Lane by Chetna Maroo
Western Lane is Indian-origin author Chetna Maroo’s debut novel and follows the life arc of a young girl’s struggle in sport. The story begins with the family learning to cope with the loss of their mother by immersing themselves in the game of Squash. In this debut novel, Maroo has managed to use the sport of squash both as context and as a metaphor. The novel talks about sisterhood, about growing up, all through crystalline language which reverberates like the sound “of a ball hit clean and hard…with a close echo”.
Fire Bird by Perumal Murugan
The 2023 JCB Prize for Literature winner, Perumal Murugan’s Fire Bird is a book that’s rich in themes and deals with heavyweight ideas like forced migration, displacement, gender roles, and man’s connection to his land. Set in rural Tamil Nadu, the story revolves around Muthu whose life turns upside down when his father divides the family land leaving him with nothing. Fire Bird shows us how closely a man’s life, his identity and survival depends upon the possession of land, or the lack of it.
Assassin by KR Meera
It’s November 2016. A middle-aged professional, Satyapriya, is attacked by an unidentified assailant. But this isn’t the first attack on her, her paralysed father tells her. Soon afterwards, her father dies and she sets off to unravel the conspiracy coiling around her. The novel raises uncomfortable questions of identity and gender in a country where power, patriarchy, caste and money conspire every day to shape the contours of women’s lives.
Originally published in Malayalam, K.R. Meera’s Assassin is a genre-defying magnum opus that every Indian must read.
The Half-Known Life by Pico Iyer
For nearly 50 years, Pico Iyer has been roaming the world and has observed and absorbed global cultures with a pilgrim’s readiness to be transformed. Traveling from Iran to North Korea, from the Dalai Lama’s Himalayas to Japan’s ghostly temples, Iyer pieces together a lifetime of explorations to upend our ideas of utopia and forces us to ask how we might find peace in the midst of difficulty and suffering. Does religion lead us back to Eden or only into constant contention? Why do so many seeming paradises turn into warzones? And does paradise exist only in the afterworld – or can it be found in the here and now?
The Book of Everlasting Things by Aanchal Malhotra
Aanchal Malhotra’s debut novel, The Book of Everlasting Things is both intimate and sweeping. A story spanning continents and generations, braiding the threads of the past to the future, here is a book which will linger in the reader’s mind like the notes of an unforgettable perfume.
The story follows Samir, a perfumer, and Firdaus in pre-Partition India and how, their love blossoms only to be separated by Partition. Bound by family and fate as the two lovers move farther away from one other, they must decide how much of their memories to hold on to.
Pick up any or all of these books from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.