Review: 'Miss New India'

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


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.

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