Review: 'Miss New India'

Novelist Bharati Mukherjee offers a view of modern India in her new novel Miss New India.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

We're going to see modern India now through the eyes of the novelist Bharati Mukherjee. Her new novel is called "New Miss India." [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: "Miss New India."] Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it offers an image of India both classic and contemporary.

ALAN CHEUSE: A village girl goes to the big city, throwing off the old ways and discovering her new identity. We've seen that plot at work here in our own fiction - I'm thinking of Dreiser's classic novel "Sister Carrie," which stripped away all pretence about the values of the new industrial city, as opposed to the old pastoral life of pre-Civil War America.

Well, Bharati Mukherjee's "Miss New India" reveals to American readers a similar truth about India, with similar effect. Anjali Bose, a Bengali girl from a less than thriving town in central India, rejects the prospect of an arranged marriage after suffering rape and humiliation by a suitor. She feels as though she is, as Mukherjee puts it: Part of the bold new India, and equal to the anywhere, a land poised for takeoff.

Anjali is certainly ready to take off. With the help of an expatriate teacher, she heads to Hindi-speaking Bangalore. Her new home, a call center metropolis, sports a breed of young men and women whose English she can scarcely understand. She settles into a rented space in the sprawling, decaying home of an elderly British matron and finds her new life - as Angie not Anjali - more and more enlightening and attractive.

All of her call center friends work hard to sound American. Novelist Mukherjee doesn't have to do that. She's made a thoroughly American novel about her former nation that proves with serious dramatic verve and passion that going home again may be difficult for any of us.

NORRIS: "Miss New India" is the new book by Bharati Mukherjee. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.