A Life Apart – Neel Mukherjee

This book is a very unsettling one.

It moves between a triad of three different story lines as does the trapped reader, seeking some relief for young Ritwik, the protagonist of the novel, who is struggling to escape from memories of an ugly childhood and the relentless onslaught of his present condition.

From Raj-era Bengal, that throws quaint insights into life during that period in the words and through the eyes of an Englishwoman, to the unfolding story of an eighty-six-year-old who gives Ritwik shelter in exchange for servitude, the reader is left connecting the far-flung dots on many occasions.

This book is about exploring the vast loneliness that dislocation brings. It’s about trying to find a place to belong, first within oneself and then within the physical world.

Neel is relentless and merciless in his story-telling and it is this quality that makes the reader squirm. He debuts with elan and has not concerned himself with niceties or subtleties at all.

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