Read Fire on the Mountain by Anita Desai Online


A classic from one of India's greatest writers with a stunning new cover in water colour.Gone are the days when Nanda Kaul watched over her family and played the part of Vice-Chancellor's wife. Leaving her children behind in the real world, the busier world, she has chosen to spend her last years alone in the mountains in Kasauli, in a secluded bungalow called Carignano.UnA classic from one of India's greatest writers with a stunning new cover in water colour.Gone are the days when Nanda Kaul watched over her family and played the part of Vice-Chancellor's wife. Leaving her children behind in the real world, the busier world, she has chosen to spend her last years alone in the mountains in Kasauli, in a secluded bungalow called Carignano.Until one summer her great-granddaughter Raka is dispatched to Kasauli and everything changes. Nanda is at first dismayed at this break in her preciously acquired solitude. Fiercely taciturn, Raka is, like her, quite untamed. The girl prefers the company of apricot trees and animals to her great-grandmother's, and spends her afternoons rambling over the mountainside. But the two are more alike than they know. Throughout the hot, long summer, Nanda's old, hidden dependencies and wounds come to the surface, ending, inevitably, in tragedy.Marvellous yet restrained, Fire on the Mountain speaks of the past and its unshakable hold over the present....

Title : Fire on the Mountain
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780060110666
Format Type : Unknown Binding
Number of Pages : 145 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Fire on the Mountain Reviews

  • Anoosha
    2019-01-22 09:14

    تلاشی بود برای نشون دادن فرهنگ و زندگی مردم هند و مخصوصا وضعیت زن ها، که خیلی ناموفق بود. نویسنده حجمی از اطلاعات رو در صفحه های آخر به خواننده تزریق می کنه که نه دیگه می تونه به پیش برد داستان کمکی کنه نه ارزشی نداره.

  • Andrea
    2019-01-16 07:23

    Nanda Kaul is contentedly living out her twilight years in near-isolation in the Indian hillstation of Kasauli, until she receives a letter from her daughter advising that Nanda's great-granddaughter, Raka, is coming to stay. Neither Nanda nor Raka is happy with this state of affairs, but Nanda is the first to thaw. A visit from Nanda's childhood friend, Ila Das, provides some gentle comic relief as well as the set-up for the shocking climax to this story.Actually, that's about all that happens, but the treasure of this book is in Anita Desai's delicious, descriptive prose. She paints a picture of Kasauli that I can see so clearly, and the three main characters are so well-drawn that they really don't need to do very much.On Kasauli:It was the ravaged, destroyed and barren spaces in Kasauli that drew her: the ravine where yellow snakes slept under grey rocks and agaves growing out of the dust and rubble, the skeletal pines that rattled in the wind, the wind-levelled hilltops and the seared remains of the safe, cosy, civilized world in which Raka had no part and to which she owed no attachment.On Ila Das:It was this cackle, this scream of hers, Nanda Kaul thought, that held all the assorted pieces of her life together like a string or chain. It was the motif of her life, unmistakably. Such a voice no human being ought to have had: it was anti-social to possess, to emit such sounds as poor Ila Das made by way of communication.And finally, Raka's pain at having to sit through afternoon tea with the two old women shines through:Raka wilted. She hung her arms between her knees and drooped her head on its thin stalk. It seemed the old ladies were going to play, all afternoon, that game of old age - that reconstructing, block by gilded block, of the castle of childhood, so ramshackle and precarious, and of stuffing it with that dolls' house furniture, those impossibly gilded red velvet sofas and painted bedsteads, that always smelt of dust and mice and that she had never cared to play with.This was my first time reading Anita Desai, but it won't be my last.

  • Portia S
    2019-01-17 11:04

    I was enjoying this so much, I was loving this and it made me happy as I read it, and then I reached the ending and I became bitter. That familiar feeling of loathing I held for so long towards ignorance and men rose like bile up my throat. I hate people. I hate men, specifically. I hate the way this book led me up to something happy and then dashed me down into something depressing. I think I've given away to much there. But what else was I expecting from Desai? She does that, doesn't she, I'm a bit annoyed at her. As her reader, I feel as though she's played a nasty little trick on me. I don't care to give a synopsis, why should I? It was all a charade for the ending. :( I AM being rather histrionic, I know, but I was happy, and then I was pushed over into the reality of life. There was fire in the mountains indeed, I was just too distracted by unraveling beauty to see it.

  • Akshay Dasgupta
    2019-01-08 07:21

    Anita Desai is such an underrated writer. Sometimes I feel she wrote her books four to five decades too early to gain the kind of appreciation and recognition that writers receive today. She is one of the very few Indian authors who wrote in the English language in the 60s. Her style of writing, her prose has the ability to carry the reader into a different world all together. In this book the author describes Carignano with such detailed precision (the pine trees, the valley behind the house, the cicadas and the apricot trees) that one actually feels being physically present at this retreat. A peculiar trait amongst all her character from several books is 'Solitude'. Be it Nanda Kaul from this book, Baumgartner from Baumgartner's Bombay, Bim from Clear Light of Day or Ravi from The Artist of Disappearance, all of these characters seem to rather enjoy their solitude. It is surprising how these characters draw strength to live from their solitude.

  • Sookie
    2018-12-30 12:17

    Desai's prose echoes the quiet setting of this short novel. In the backdrop of mountain terrain and cool breeze, the elderly protagonist unearths deeply rooted emotions from her past when her great-granddaughter arrives. The two women with wealth of time separating them, find themselves to be more alike than initially expected. There is a free spirit in all of us and Desai's writing calls out to that. In that aspect, Desai succeeds in telling a story about women whose ending can be anything but tragic and their lives, rich.

  • Roo
    2019-01-03 05:05

    Length~ A NovellaPerfect for~ A rainy day with drink of choiceYour mood to match~ SombreRating~ 5 vanilla frosted cupcakes with rainbow sprinklesWhy this book caught my eye~The desire to break free and clear your life of all the clutter, the screechy irritations of the modern age in which we continually find ourselves inexplicably connected with the rest of the world via the internet of things, awaken forbidden wishes within us-more often than we would like- to run away from it all.Nanda Kaul does just that, and when I read the back of the book, that's what attracted me. The perfect retirement plan from being a mother, a wife and the rest of the duties the society expects, or at least excepted from a woman back in the day, a few years after India's independence. In that attraction, the book did not disappoint. Nanda Kaul was inscrutably content, that is, till her great- grandchild arrived.The people you'll read about~As you would have guessed, Nanda Kaul is not your average great-grandmommy- all love and baked gingerbread cookies, no.She doesn't want to be disturbed. But then her wary aloofness and nonchalance and want of solitude has apparently skipped two generations. As her great-grandchild Raka displays even stronger signs of wanting to be left alone, Nanda Kaul starts to become uncharacteristically clingy. She wants to pull the quiet moonchild out of her shell. She starts down the path of experimental storytelling, making up tall claims about her childhood and the home she knew as a young girl.Raka is connected to nature in a way most of us fail to achieve. She is restless to get her hands dirty exploring the mountains and wild paths of Kasauli. Raka is not drawn to her namesake moon, as much she is drawn to the chaos and destruction of brilliant fires that the forests are prone to.The story of Ila Das made me break down and cry and it climaxed towards the very end of the novel in a way that would make a readers' heart twist and head pound. No, I am still in half denial. The still quiet of the novel, weighed down with memories, stories, feelings and rare speech, is broken by the sudden vicious thorn plunged in its amidst.Why this novel shines out~This novel is different from most others in a way that it is fast paced not in actions, but in the speedy transitions of human thoughts. The descriptions of the cantonment established in the times of British Raj are vivid and run like a movie. Anita Desai grounds the demented and tortured strands of life in a way that is refreshingly beautiful.

  • Manish
    2019-01-01 13:20

    The painstakingly created solitude of a Nanda Kaul is suddenly disturbed when her great granddaughter is sent to her for recuperation. Discomfort soon turns to tenderness when the little one proves to be different from assumptions. A simple story but Desai's skill at describing the life in the hills of Kasauli and the sparse descriptions are going to be etched in memory for a long long time!

  • Arun
    2018-12-25 07:01

    Anita Desai so far is one of the very few writers who is able to directly influence my mood through their work. Should you see a tragic end, you too would feel so; if it were a heart-warming end, you too would be smiling. I really felt my mood change at the culmination scene. Such an amazing writer she is! Such a gripping tale this is. If not for anyone else, it was certainly relatable to me.The opening scene greets us with a postman trekking upwards towards a home in the hilly area of Kasuali. Living in that quiet, secluded house is Nanda Kaul, who had had so hectic a life when she was young. She had renounced everything and had settled in this place, much like an ascetic, scarcely with any worldly connections. Her children, and their children would call, at times, even which she thought as an intrusion to her secrecy and quiet living. In such a scenario the letter arrives announcing havoc in her life: her great-grandchild Raka will be arriving to spend her summer holidays with Nanda. She shivers. She was torn; afraid that her secrecy and her solitude will get disturbed; that she will be reduced to the same life--looking after another soul--which she had had much and thus resigned to this life. She certainly disliked this unwanted onus to look after her grandchild, but it was inevitable.So, Raka arrives. Initially, Nanda customarily, without real connection, embraces her grandchild. But to her own surprise, Raka was unlike any other kid she had ever seen. She never demanded anything; never spoke, asked for anything. She almost saw her own self in the child. The child would resort to lonely walks along the hills, down-slope she'd go alone and would return. It felt good for Nanda that somehow her quiet resigned life was left spared. As days went on, she felt an indefinable connection with the child that she should, much to the dismay of the child, start authoritatively interacting with her. Ram was the only cook Nanda has had - the only other human being around her. She felt jealous that Ram quite naturally bonded well with the child compared to her.It is amidst these happenings--both the ladies trying to understand each other; self-exploring--would arrive Nanda's friend Ila Das. She was a club-footed woman with coarse, shrilly voice that shooed away even the birds. She was a chatterbox, whose presence irritated both the child and the great-grandmother. Ila prattled on, to the child, about their childhood and such, which dismayed both. She would stay for the tea and would leave them that night. She was way too excited to having met Nanda, whom she sees after so many years. She was a social worker (welfare officer) who struggles, with her meagre Govt. salary, to make ends meet. She narrated some stories of the village that she works in such as their superstitious life which leads to death (these people were blinded by a selfish priest who dissuaded the idea of going to doctors), of child marriages and such. And just the day before, she would say, she had advised a person who, for a piece of land and two cattle, was ready to marry off her 7-year-old daughter to a wealthy old man. The priest had started to stir negative feelings of the villagers towards Ila as she interfered in his illegal business of deceiving people into magic and gaining money. That night, as she returns home all alone, something significant happens. The novel ends with Nanda receiving a phone call about Ila.This novel is such a marvelous piece of work from Anita Desai. It touches upon innumerable subjects--jealousy, craving, longing for privacy, self-exploration, superstitions, judging humans and such sensitive subjects. Such an emotional novel. A must read!

  • Pankaj Suneja
    2019-01-01 10:14

    Fire on the mountain has simple and detailed story. The plot is that Nanda Kaul chooses to retire from her family life and spend the rest of her life in isolation in Carigano, a secluded bungalow in Kasauli. Ramlal, the cook of the home is the only person who lives in the bungalow along with her. Nanada Kaul is shocked when her great granddaughter, Raka, arrives to stay with her in bungalow. Raka was sent by Asha, daughter of Nanda Kaul and mother of Tara. Raka is suffering from Typhoid and was sent to he nani to rest in the secluded place. One of Nanda Kaul's old friend Illa das comes to meet her and in the end Illa das was raped and murdered. This incident shocked Nanda Kaul and she sees all the masks and lies falling down and she is closer to painful reality.The joy of reading the book is its details in the relationship with nature animals. The reading tells us a lot about the everyday here and now. The words to describe even most simplest of actions. Like breathing. Sighing, panting, gasp... It is amazing the way every moment is described and lived. It feels as if the whole imagination in the book is living. It exists in the writing.This book makes us aware of daily life that we live. Do we have a moment for ourselves? Or we plan to live a secluded life in old age? It makes us aware of desire of old age? I felt that such kind of escape in secluded bungalow was a result of lot of violence to oneself. It might not have been possible to see inside midst the outward living. I think that one needs to move out or away from it, like Nanda Kaul did by retiring to secluded bungalow in a hill station.I could completely understand the experience of Nanda Kaul. The need to find connection and yet live in isolation. The socializing might lead to wearing a mask and not in touch with inner life.I think we all have some kind of mask but healthy living is when it is in balance with inner life. The rape and murder of Illa Das triggered the chaos and pain in Nanda Kaul's life. This could lead to depression, but it would be healthy. The fire within is the climax and it feels like that it will sweep her away and whole would will be burned. It is then Raka said "Nani, I have set fire on the forest". Fire on the Mountain ends with the fire within and there could be different possibilities the story can take. One, she would not be able to survive this episode and will fall ill or die. Second, the inetensity of episode will decrese over time and she will keep on living the way she is. Third, she will recover from this episode and will be like a new beginning with healthy relationships with family and self.

  • Hrrostami
    2018-12-23 07:19

    این کتاب درباره زنی از طبقه متوسط است که روزی نتیجه دختری اش به خاطر بیماری مادرش نزد وی می آید. بخش بیشتر کتاب درباره تلاشهای این جده و نتیجه است برای شناخت یکدیگر به همراه توصیف طبقه فقیر هند و شرح زندگی زنان هندیتا آنجایی که می دانم تنها سه کتاب از ایشان ترجمه شده است و خیلی خوشحال می شوم اگر سایر کتابهایش هم ترجمه و چاپ شوند.

  • Sachin Suresh
    2019-01-21 07:08

    Starting off with languid, repetitive and monotonous descriptions of pine needles, cicadas and apricots the book becomes unputdownable and startles you with a brisk, insightful climax.A story of three women who are dissatisfied with what life provides them with how they eventually fall prey to their attempts to revitalize it.

  • Muhammed Furqan
    2019-01-03 11:57

    A delightful read but the ending, so tragic.

  • Ben Batchelder
    2019-01-02 13:04

    This is a dark, short morality tale. Desai creates a matriarch, Nanda Kaul, who only wants to be left alone. Widowed and free of encumbrances, she lives high up in the Indian mountains, with one servant who rarely ruffles the solitude of Carignano. Then a letter arrives, announcing that she is to receive a prolonged visit. Her great-granddaughter, Raka, is recovering from typhoid and her jet-setting mother, recently separated, is about to be institutionalized in Geneva, so Raka must spend the summer, recuperating in the Kisauli Hills.Nanda Kaul wants nothing to do with little Raka – whom she barely recalls, as she can’t differentiate one greatgrand from another – yet the matter has been decided and Raka is arriving, like it or not. At first only brimming with resentment at a proper distance, Nanda Kaul suffers her own transformation, as the child, she realizes, is her spitting image.“If Nanda Kaul was a recluse out of vengeance for a long life of duty and obligation, her great-granddaughter was a recluse by nature, by instinct. She had not arrived at the condition by a long route of rejection and sacrifice – she was born to it, simply.” [p.48]At first not wishing to be disturbed in the slightest during her afternoon quiet times, Nanda Kaul starts out curious about Raka’s scaling-adventures down into the dry ravine at the lip of the house, but ends up obsessed. She even thinks of willing her home to the little sprite. So she starts to tell tall tales and suggests excursions to the curious, if impenetrable girl, who astonishes her.“Looking down at her foot [...], Raka said in a stifled voice, ‘But you never go to the club either, Nani.“Nanda Kaul’s foot gave an astonished little jerk into the grey silt tent of her sari. Then she gave a snort of laughter. Bending down so that her face was at a level with hunched child’s and her nose tapered softly forwards, she said ‘Raka, you really are a great-grandchild of mine, aren’t you? You are more like me than any of my children or grandchildren. You are exactly like me, Raka.’”[p.64]Raka rejects the intimacy.“But Raka retreated pell-mell from this outspoken advance. It was too blatant, too obvious for her who loved secrecy above all. Her small face blanched and she pinched her lips together in distatste.” [p.65]Nanda Kaul hears nothing of it and escalates her story-telling ploys until the inevitable happens. A series of occurrences leads to the old lady’s demise, just in time for the conflagration started by little Raka, who could well be orphaned by it.Too late Nanda Kaul realizes all her life has been a lie.“It was all a lie, all. She had lied to Raka, lied about everything.” [p.145]As Carignano, the house also to be sacrificed, was last occupied by a Memsahib of the dying British embers, this may well be a fable about the identity-building of India, itself birthed to indifferent parents and rended by death at her release.Fire on the Mountain, Penguin Books, London, 1981

  • Teresa
    2018-12-23 12:20

    this book is atypical, a rare species (think life aquatic :P). it's about a little girl having to live with her grandma who is very old and crotchety who has no affection for anyone anymore. they live together in near silence. i like this book so much because it's not the sort of thing people typically make you read about: a grandma and a granddaughter. i know it seems common enough but i don't think i've read another novel that delves into this relationship. i guess people don't write about it because there is no sex appeal. in my own life it is a very interesting and enriching relationship. it's fun to examine my grandma as a specimen from history. all my grandma's instincts in life are so alien compared to my own. anyhoo, the trouble is that this book is out of print. i lucked out and found it at a resale shop somewhere in West Texas i think. it's definitely worth the trouble tracking down a copy.

  • Attila
    2019-01-08 10:59

    Nanda Kaul retreats to a solitary existence, fed up with society and the world after serving the needs of her extensive family for a lifetime. When her sick great-granddaughter arrives to spend the summer at her place, she is annoyed at first, but soon they develop a bond, and it is actually Nanda Kaul who seeks the company of the child. Later, an old acquaintance comes to visit, disrupting the solitary idyll, and the story comes to a violent ending.It is a moving and powerful book, presenting a variety of human relations in a skillful way. It portrays the lighter and darker sides of both the Colonial and post-Colonial era, the hypocrisies of village life, the nuances of relationships and self-exploring. Another strong point is the precise and intricate narrative.

  • Ghennet
    2018-12-27 05:14

    I have to admit that the Desai daughter, Kiran desai touches me and makes me laugh a lot through her creativity and humour, and much more than her mother Anita. Fire on the mountain is about the lonliness and freedom of an aging grandmother who has abandoned all to be on her own and that of her wild grand daughter who had no where else to go. Wonderful writing, literature and descriptions about India of bygone days and today.

  • Ishan
    2019-01-03 10:01

    I hadn't really read any Desai (Anita or Kiran) before this one, and I was literally cross with myself for not having read any Desai until now, after I was through this one.This book is beautiful, in the literal sense. It moves you, it touches you. Every line, every paragraph is so real, so riddled with emotions, you can't help but smile, and be sad with them.Like I said, this was my first Desai. And it certainly won't be the last.

  • Jodi
    2018-12-25 05:24

    Sparsely but descriptively sets the scene. It is a book that lingers long after you finish reading it. A poignant and sympathetic comparison of what is seen on the surface with what occurs underneath the surface in people's lives.

  • Pippa
    2019-01-04 04:57

    Beautiful book. Every word moved me. What a shame she is out of print.

  • Ritu
    2019-01-09 13:02

    Edited review I realize my earlier review of the novel was misleading.Nanda Kaul is my worst nightmare realized in words. A woman living for family, in servitude all her life. Resentful. Repressed. Isolated. Neglected. No one who actually gives a damn about her. But she lives with stoic pride. Lying to herself that she needs the isolation. Women bending under the male pride. Taught all their life that it is their duty to look after everyone. And now she lives alone on the mountain, lying to herself to not give in to despair. A life without meaning. Yeah. My worst nightmare realized in flesh. And I could not admit it to myself. Because who wants to think of a bleak, hopeless future? Searching for ways to connect with the only one who showed up. Yes, I might read it again. Anita Desai has crafted a reality so real that it continues to haunt and grate on my senses still. Unsettling. Uneasy. God she's amazing. This story doesn't scream the truth. It continues in the same stoic pride, the calm demeanor of Nanda Kaul. Hands down the scariest thing I'll read this year.

  • Joe
    2019-01-13 11:20

    This a strange little book. It is extremely visually descriptive, almost the point of exaggeration, especially with its characters and with the natural world. There is something darkly funny and a little nasty about it. Glad I picked it up randomly and got to spend time in this author's unusual world.

  • Kiran Singh
    2019-01-06 07:22

    Fire In The Mountain is my first book by Anita Desai. The story plot began promisingly but disappointment sets in after some 40-50 pages. The description of Nanda Kaul's solitude & her reflections on past life become monotonous & boring. I wish Desai had worked on building other characters in Nanda Kaul's life for sake of granularity to the story. Nanda Kaul's musings makes me impatient. I was almost angry when in the last page Anita Desai reveals Nanda Kaul's difficult marriage & childhood. To me it seemed like a cheap trick. Forced to look different. I shall be ginger to attempt another book by het anytime soon.

  • Abhishek
    2019-01-19 11:57

    A nice read over the weekend. Anita Desai's writing is pretty good. Loved her The Artist of Disappearance. I am surely getting her entire collection.

  • Narendra Mutalik Desai
    2019-01-06 10:02

    Well defined flow through the characters. Although End was unexpected, hoping to have something positive .!Rest everything is simple and bestNarendra

  • Sofi
    2019-01-06 08:55

    A lovely tale about three different women with different lives, wishes and thoughts. I really really liked this book.

  • KayG
    2019-01-12 10:56

    A tale of India - beautifully written - lonely and tragic.

  • beautywithbooks
    2019-01-06 13:17

    Read the review in my blog.This is my first ever Anita Desai book. And I would say, I read this book out of luck. I am on a vacation and didn’t get any books as I had my kindle editions to read. But un-fortunately (or fortunately), I finished reading my kindle books and was without any books to read. I found this book in my sister’s collections and grabbed it.Though I didn’t felt it was a great book and it has a sad ending, I like Anita Desai’s writing style and the way she was able to give the day to-day descriptions of the life of Nanda Kaul and her cook Ram Lal and her great granddaughter Raka. Her writing style is very lucid.When she was back on her cane chair on the veranda, watching the sunlight spread over the tiles like a bright lacquer – too bright, too dry – the telephone rang. It rang so seldom, at Carignano, that its ringing sounded extraordinary, ominous.Sitting bolt upright in her chair and trembling slightly, Nanda Kaul pressed the palms of her hands together and wondered whether to punish it by letting it ring itself to death or end her agony by answering it quickly. Its persistent shrilling was so painful that she was obliged to do the latter which seemed to her like a weakness, offending her still further.This is story of an old woman Nanda Kaul, who feels she is done enduring with her life as Vice-Chancellor’s wife and taking care of her many responsibilities of her children and guests in her busier world. She chose to spend the last years of her life alone in the mountain town of Kasauli. She likes spending her time sitting on her cane chair in the veranda and looking at her apricot trees and pine trees. The only person to give her company in her solitary life is her cook Ram Lal who takes care of her house chores. She spends her life calmly with her solitary thoughts in her bungalow Carignano.One summer she receives a devastating letter from her daughter, Asha, stating that her great granddaughter Raka would be visiting her as she is recovering from typhoid. Her peace is disturbed. She is tensed as her solitude will be disturbed. She feels Raka is an intruder in her tranquil life.When Raka arrives, Nanda embraces her without any real excitement or happiness. On the other hand she was nervous and annoyed. Eventually, she finds out that Raka is not like any other child seeking attention. She was more like her. She never demanded anything; never spoke, asked for anything. Raka would resort to lonely walks along the hills, down-slope she’d go alone and would return. But this disappointed her that Raka was able to connect to her cook Ram Lal with ease. But Raka never showed any interest in Nanda’s talks. Raka always remained indifferent towards her great grandmother.As the days passed, she felt an un-definable connection with the child and voluntarily started interacting with Raka. Though Raka showed her signs of boredom towards her talks, still Nanda tried to stir the excitement in Raka with her exaggerated talks about her past life and her family, to catch the attention of the child.To shatter the tranquillity of her life further, her childhood friend Ila Dash pays her a visit. Ila’s shrill irritating voice was more annoying than her own self. The visit of Ila, invokes the past memories of Nanda. All those memories which she had buried in time and tried to wipe out the past by staying isolated, disconnected from every single person. Ila is social activist but in a poor economic state. Because of her pride, she was not able to ask for help from Nanda. And while returning home after paying her a visit, is raped and killed by a man, whom she was trying to convince, not to get her daughter married in such a young age to an old man.Nanda receives a call from the local police station stating Ila’s news. And in the same time Raka comes over to her and says, “look, nani, I have set the forest on fire”. This is the first time, Raka had initiated any conversation with Nanda.At that moment, all the masks and lies which she had woven around her life fall apart. She comes close to painful reality. What are the aftermaths, is left to the readers to imagine.This book puts an light to both the lighter and darker sides of human relations and hypocritical believes of villagers. Even though one can put numerous masks, cannot run away from the reality.

  • Sundarraj Kaushik
    2019-01-07 06:07

    Based in Kasauli the book revolves around he life of an old lady who is staying away from company as she feels she has endured enough company during her lifetime.It looks like her life is going to be put in jeopardy due the arrival of her great granddaugther. She is very uncomfortable with the possibility but is in no position to refuse.The child comes to stay with her. But the child so independent, in fact so aloof, that the old lady feels a little odd. The child is on her own through the day, running through the forest and shrubbery in the neighbourhood. She is just not interested in engaging with her great grandmother.So much does the old lady feel odd, against her will, she initiates a discussion with her great granddaughter. She spins stories for her great granddaughter thinking that it would keep her entertained, but contrary to that the child seems to prefer to be alone. She even walks with the child to a nearby attraction which is again not relished by the child.One day their tranquil is shattered by the arrival of a childhood friend of the old lady with a shrieking irritating voice and who has done badly in her life. This stirs back all the memory which the old woman has hidden in her head and has tried to wipe out by staying away from others and by spinning tall tales for her great granddaughter. The lady's who is now working as a social activist for the government spends the afternoon with the lady and her great grandchild. The great grandchild manages to sneak off somewhere in between to her daily jaunts. The friend is too proud to ask for help and the pride stops her from accepting the help extended by the old lady. On her way back she is raped and killed by a man whom she has been trying to convince not get his girl child married to an old man.The child sets fire to the forest and comes back happily back to her great grandmother and for the first time initiates a discussion by saying "Nani I set the mountain on fire".Not a great book. My last Anita Desai book.

  • Ananya
    2019-01-13 12:25

    This is by far the best I have read of Anita Desai. The author presents the harsh realities of life in a subtle manner. It starts on a depressing tone with delineation of an old lady, now a great grandmother cherishing her solitude in a cold part of the country.It gives her inner peace to be free from the busy demanding role that she has served for most of her life as a wife, mother, grandmother and so on.The solitude as we see in the first two parts of the book is a choice that the character has willingly made.But, as we move forward in the story we find that it is not so. Her isolation is interrupted by the arrival of her great grand-child who to our surprise is an introvert and leaves the protagonist even more lonely and restless than before. This is the beginning of an unusual bond between the two, where the old lady starts opening up and the child succumbs to her wishes. The story takes a vehement turn thereafter,with the a coming up of a friend of the protagonist and the revealing of the naked truth that the story manages to skillfully hide beneath its characters. But, it is the ending that takes over the entire story. It is the one thing that you will never forget.It is overall a silent story that speaks for its characters, gives you a secret peek into the dark side of the so-called elite class, tortures you with the remnants of a broken childhood and finally makes you experience the agonies of old age.

  • Susan Chow-Dukhan
    2019-01-20 11:56

    Nanda Kaul is spending her twilight years living in solitude in a austere mountain home called Carignano, a far cry from her past, presiding as the Vice-Chancellor's wife in a university town, surrounded by children, servants and house guests. Happy in here solitude, she is initially annoyed upon the arrival of her great granddaughter. Raka is an unconventional child, spending her days in solitude, a recluse by nature. Nanda finds herself admiring Raka, as the she feels that the two are similar, except Nanda is a recluse as a result of a long life of duty and obligation. Anita Desai has a gift with words. Her descriptions of the fauna and surroundings makes it easy to visualize the mountain home and the villages below. While the relationship between Nanda and Raka develops slowly over time, the reader can sense that something is brewing in the background, much like the breaking of storms that people are expecting, but are not totally prepared. The author is skillful in the way she slowly elevates the tension throughout the book, without giving hints of the final climax.