India is a vast country with a very diverse population of over a billion people and a long history that has birthed many stories and writers over the year. The first novel written by an Indian in English was Travels of Dean Mahomet by Sake Dean Mahomet. Mahomet’s travel narrative was published in 1793 in England. Since then, many novels have been set in India written by British authors ( E. M. Forster, M. M. Kaye, Paul Scott, Rudyard Kipling, Rumer Godden) and by Indians who are living in India and abroad in countries such as Britain, the US and Canada.
Having lived in India for 15 years, I am drawn to novels set in that country, looking for stories that reflect my experiences there and informing me of the vast diversity of the land, the people and the culture. Of the many that have been published over the years, here are 7 books that were written by Canadians who were either born in India or whose parents immigrated to Canada in the 20th century. Some are award winning authors, some are not so well known. But all tell engaging stories of life in India.
Dahanu Road by Irani Anosh, 2010
“With understated skill, Anosh Irani tells such a darkly enchanting story of the abandoned children of Bombay that I felt swept away by their fate and entangled in the world’s too believable cruelty towards the innocent. Irani’s shocking tale unfolds with a macabre and terrifying beauty that is both heartbreaking and compelling.” ~ Wayson Choy
“This fantastical historical novel, narrated by a child yet to be born, traces the lives of three generations of a Parsi family in India from the later 1800s to the present day. It follows the family from the intricacies of village life in the jungles to central India to the complications of urban life in turbulent pre- and post-independence struggles to contemporary diasporic realities in the United Kingdom and North America.” ~ Back cover
Chef : a novel by Jaspreet Singh, 2008
“Chef Kirpal, seriously ill, returns to Kashmir after a gap of fourteen years to cook his last meal at the Governor’s residence. He embarks on a long train and bus journey from Deli to Kashmir during which he looks back over his days. He would like to excavate a part of his past that has kept him from moving forward.” ~ Inside back flap.
Assassin’s Song by M. G. Vassanji, 2007 (Giller Prize winning author)
“ A shining study of the conflict between ancient loyalties and modern desires, a conflict that creates turmoil the world over – and it is at once an intimate portrait of one man’s painful struggle to hold the earthly and the spiritual in balance..” ~ Publisher.
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry, 2002 (Giller Prize winning author)
A domestic drama and an intently observed portrait of present-day Bombay in all its vitality and corruption. “Mistry is not just a fiction writer; he’s a philosopher who finds meaning — indeed, perhaps a divine plan — in small human interactions. This beautifully paced, elegantly expressed novel is notable for the breadth of its vision as well as its immensely appealing characters and enticing plot.” ~ Publisher’s Weekly
The Hero’s Walk: novel by Anita Rau Badami, 2000
“The Hero’s Walk is a remarkably intimate novel that fills the senses with the unique textures of India. With humor and keen insight, Anita Rau Badami draws us into her story of the graceful heroism of the ordinary.” ~ Inside jacket.
What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin, 1999
“Out of the rich culture of India and the brutal drama of the 1947 Partition comes this lush and eloquent debut novel about two women married to the same man.” ~ Summary