I love India so much that I cannot wait to go back. At this very moment, I am struggling against the desire to pack some lightweight clothing into a suitcase and head to Kerala, where I spent the better part of a week while traveling abroad in 2012. Here are a few of the stories I return to when I’m longing for a jasmine flower tucked behind my ear and a seat at an old friend’s table on the streets of Cochin.
This utterly irresistible novel travels from Kerala to New York and tells the story of two sisters who dream of coming to the United States. When one wins a scholarship to a prestigious American school, both girls must confront their yearning to disappear into another country and the powerful pull of their homeland.
When Jasmine is suddenly widowed at seventeen, she seems fated to a life of quiet isolation in the small Indian village where she was born. But, voracious for life, she flees to America where she becomes Jane Ripplemeyer. Her odyssey illuminates the fractured lives of exiles and immigrants caught up in the painful yet exhilarating cross-cultural metamorphosis.
This magnificent novel captures all of India’s cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism. The year is 1975 and the government has just declared a state of emergency, in whose upheaval four strangers are forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
For some lighter fare, try this tale of three young Englishwomen on their way to a new life in India during the 1920s. From the parties of wealthy Bombay socialites to the poverty of Tamarind Street, from the sooty streets of London to the genteel conversation of the Bombay Yacht Club, this is a book that has it all: glorious detail, fascinating characters, and masterful storytelling.
In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of the Himalayas lives an embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace when his orphaned granddaughter arrives on his doorstep. This story of joy and despair majestically illuminates the consequences of colonialism as it collides with the modern world.
The redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirited her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time. There, in the jungle behind her ancestral house, she discovers a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.
This sweeping, suspenseful, coming-of-age tale is about an orphaned young woman who has enjoyed a privileged upbringing with her beloved grandparents in Kolkata. When she learns they concealed the fact that her father is not dead, she embarks on a journey that transforms her life.
Arundhati Roy’s debut novel has become a modern classic. Equal parts family saga, forbidden love story, and political drama, it chronicles in exquisite, atmospheric detail an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969.