Our library theme for 2020 is Your Library Card, Your Ticket to the World–because with the library, you truly can travel around the world without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Every month in 2020, we’ll be landing at a new place on the globe. In May, we’re in India.
If you love historical fiction:
Alka Joshi’s The Henna Artist (2020)
A vivid depiction of 1950s Jaipur, this book follows Lakshmi, who has escaped an abusive marriage and now is the city’s most sought-after henna artist. Her new life is a balancing act, one in which she is privy to the secrets of the city’s rich and powerful, though her own backstory remains hidden. That is, until her estranged husband suddenly appears one day. . . .
Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Shobha Rao and Thrity N. Umriger.
If you enjoy mysteries:
Sujata Massey’s Perveen Mistry series (2018-2019)*
This new series has gotten a lot of buzz for its intriguing heroine–Perveen Mistry (one of the first female lawyers in India)–and its vivid setting–1920s Bombay. Perveen uses her Oxford education and unique position as a groundbreaking attorney to solve mysteries that affect women and children. These books are a genre-bending blend of historical fiction, mystery, and legal thriller.
*Both also available as ebooks on Libby.
Recommended for those who enjoy Elizabeth Peters’s work.
If you’re a mystery lover, you might also enjoy the Sam Wyndham books, which I have profiled on here before. Written by Abir Mukherjee, this series also has a 1920s setting, though in Calcutta rather than Bombay. They follow traumatized WWI veteran Wyndham as he teams up with Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians on the police force, to solve crime.
If you prefer women’s fiction:
Jaya is a journalist based in New York, but when her marriage falls apart, she decides to distract herself from her own personal struggles by returning to her family’s homeland of India to delve into a familial mystery. Along the way, she learns about her grandmother’s forbidden romance decades earlier–and about herself in the process.
If you like nonfiction:
Dane Huckelbridge’s No Beast So Fierce (2019)
The Champawat tiger is the deadliest man-eating tiger in history. In the early 1900s, she absolutely terrorized the Himalayan foothills of India and Nepal as she killed over 400 people. In 1907, famed hunter Jim Corbett was sent to stop the tigress and what ensued was an unnerving game of, well, cat and mouse. I’ve actually read Corbett’s excellent account of his career hunting man-eating tigers and leopards (The Man-Eaters of Kumaon), which includes a chapter on the Champawat tiger, and he writes far more sensitively and insightfully about India and tigers than one would assume, given his place and time. Author Dane Huckelbridge, however, expands his focus to look more broadly at the historical context of the story and delve into conservation issues.
Recommended for those who enjoy Peter Matthiessen’s work.
If man-eating tigers isn’t you’re thing, you might also be interested in some other nonfiction books about India I have profiled in the past on the blog:
Shoba Narayan’s quirky memoir, Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure,is about the author’s adventures after she and her family relocate to her native India. She soon becomes close to her neighbor, who sells milk, and this eventually triggers the two going on a rather epic search for a new cow.
Michael Benanav’s memoir Himalaya Bound chronicles the journalist’s experiences as he joins a family of Indian nomads on their annual migration to the Himalayas, a tradition and way of life that is threatened by new laws and a changing society.
If you want to watch rather than read:
Indian Summers (2015-2016)
Set in the waning days of the British Empire, this series features a range of characters from different backgrounds as they cross paths professionally and personally in Simla, the summer capital of British India. I watched the first season of this show a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. Perfect it is not, but I found it interesting and well-made, though the second season I’ve not watched got more uneven reviews.
Recommended for those who enjoy Downton Abbey.
The Good Karma Hospital (2017-2020)
Dr. Ruby Walker relocates to South India from the UK in the hopes that a change of scenery is just what she needs to deal with personal heartbreak and frustration with the direction of her career. She ends up at a small hospital and finds herself navigating unique medical cases, an even more unique workplace, and a healthy dose of personal drama and complications. If you love British television and medical dramas that focus on doctors’ personal and professional lives, this is, um, just what the doctor ordered. 😉
Recommended for those who enjoy Call the Midwife.
What’s your favorite book set in India? Whose your favorite Indian author? Do you have stories to share from your own travels to India? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on any of these items or to place them on hold.