A wide-eyed boy growing up in suburban Calcutta in the 1960s experiences the world through the eyes of others - an intoxicating older cousin, a grandmother who weaves stories from the past and a family in London whose lives are intertwined with his. When a seemingly random act of violence threatens his vision of the world, he begins piecing together events for himself, and in the process unravels secrets with devastating consequences.
Set in Calcutta and London and spanning generations from the outbreak of the Second World War to the late twentieth century, The Shadow Lines is a haunting novel from one of the world's greatest writers.
With Proustian precision, the narrator of Ghosh's second novel (after The Circle of Reason ) recalls the people and events that dominated his childhood in Calcutta in the '60s, and later in London, when those people, and the lasting influence of the events, come together in a circle of sorrow. The narrator focuses on two families known to each other since the time of the Raj: his own, in particular his cousin Ila and her young uncle Tridib, and the Prices, including the children May and Nick. Meticulously observant, he describes his school days, punctuated by visits with Tridib (whose conversation, especially about his visits with the Prices, the boy will remember almost word for word) or from Ila's family, who lived mostly abroad because her father was a diplomat. While the mystery at the tale's heart concerns Tridib's fate in the city of Dhaka during the summer of Bangladesh's Partition, in 1964, the effects of that crucial time--on the narrator, on May--do not unfold until nearly 20 years later. Such delayed understanding is the fuel that powers Ghosh's quiet, forceful writing, in which detail and memory are shown to shape our lives as effectively as events of global importance. Examining connectedness and separation, the author uses the fate of nations to offer observations about a profoundly human condition.