Inspired by Kerrie’s Global Reading Challenge, I’ve been trying to read more international fiction. With my eyes on the “expert level’ of three books from each of the six inhabited continents (plus three from the seventh continent, which could not only be Antarctica, but also something set in the ancient past, distant future, outer space, alternate universe, etc) even though it feels like I’m making significant progress, when I crunch the numbers I can tell I still have my work cut out for me. But after finishing Amit Majmudar’s 2011 debut novel Partitions I just got a bit closer to my goal. And on top of it, it’s not a bad novel either.
Partitions tells the story of four people caught up in the bloody chaos resulting from Britain’s decision to finally grant independence to its prized South Asian possession by splitting it into the two nations of India and Pakistan. The story centers on a the journeys of four refugees, forming a kind of microcosm representing pre-1947 India’s three major religions: a pair of young Hindu twin boys, a Sikh teen girl and a mature Muslim doctor. All four are driven from their homes by communal violence and must make their way to safety on the other side of the newly drawn border. In what ended up being a bit of a surprise to me their perilous journey is narrated by the ghost of the twins’ father, giving a somewhat supernatural feel to his at times detached, at times heartfelt first person account of the action.
Based on the many comments I’ve read on both Goodreads and Amazon, this novel was well-received, with many readers expressing how much they enjoyed it. While I didn’t enjoy it to the degree most readers did, I must have liked it enough to rip through it in what felt like no time. It’s also inspired me to read more novels from South Asian writers. As I type this I have Jaspreet Singh’s 2010 novel Chef fresh from the public library and sitting by my side ready to be read. I also have on my living room bookshelf Aravind Adiga’s 2008 debut novel The White Tiger stacked next to a vintage paperback edition of Kamala Markandaya’s 1954 novel Nectar in a Sieve. Inspired by not only Kerrie’s Global Reading Challenge but also S. Krishna’s South Asian Reading Challenge (I signed up only a few nights ago) after finishing Partitions I now feel ready to read more novels by authors from the Indian Subcontinent.