Leela's Book: A Novel

( 1 )

Overview

?Steeped in the tradition of the Indian epic, yet modern and vastly entertaining.??The Times (London)
In her fiction debut, Alice Albinia weaves a multithreaded epic tale that encompasses divine saga and familial discord and introduces an unforgettable heroine. Leela?alluring, taciturn, haunted?is moving from New York back to Delhi. Worldly and accomplished, she has been in self-imposed exile from India and her family for decades; twenty-two years earlier, her sister was seduced by the egotistical Vyasa, and the ...

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Leela's Book: A Novel

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Overview

“Steeped in the tradition of the Indian epic, yet modern and vastly entertaining.”—The Times (London)
In her fiction debut, Alice Albinia weaves a multithreaded epic tale that encompasses divine saga and familial discord and introduces an unforgettable heroine. Leela—alluring, taciturn, haunted—is moving from New York back to Delhi. Worldly and accomplished, she has been in self-imposed exile from India and her family for decades; twenty-two years earlier, her sister was seduced by the egotistical Vyasa, and the fallout from their relationship drove Leela away. Now an eminent Sanskrit scholar, Vyasa is preparing for his son’s marriage. But when Leela arrives for the wedding, she disrupts the careful choreography of the weekend, with its myriad attendees and their conflicting desires.
Gleefully presiding over the drama is Ganesh—divine, elephant-headed scribe of the Mahabharata, India’s great epic. The family may think they have arranged the wedding for their own selfish ends, but according to Ganesh it is he who is directing events—in a bid to save Leela, his beloved heroine, from Vyasa. As the weekend progresses, secret online personas, maternal identities, and poetic authorships are all revealed; boundaries both religious and continental are crossed; and families are ripped apart and brought back together in this vibrant and brilliant celebration of family, love, and storytelling.

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Editorial Reviews

Time Out
“Bold, playful, smart and lively.”
The Times
“This is steeped in the tradition of the Indian epic, yet modern and vastly entertaining.”
Daily Mail
“A talent to watch.”
Daily Beast
Imagine all the drama, sexual intrigue, and familial discord of the ancient Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, retold in modern times with a satirical twist . . . a compelling and wildly entertaining tale unfolds.— Lizzie Crocker
The Guardian
“Leela's Book is a stimulating novel in which Albinia skilfully manages an intricate plot and an enormous, diverse cast of characters. Her immense historical acumen and sophisticated sense of culture have enabled her to craft a powerful tale.”
Financial Times Weekend
“A bold and delightful novel, executed with energy and flair... Albinia has pulled off the remarkable trick of melding a story about modern family ties with a timeless tale about gods and avatars. Leela's Book is as much a meditation on tensions between brothers and sisters, or between parents and their children, as it is a rumination on the nature of storytelling... The result is magnificent.”
Lizzie Crocker - Daily Beast
“Imagine all the drama, sexual intrigue, and familial discord of the ancient Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, retold in modern times with a satirical twist . . . a compelling and wildly entertaining tale unfolds.”
Library Journal
Award-winning author Albinia (Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River) brings us an intricate story about a disastrous wedding; about two families that couldn't be more different; about faith, class, and politics in Indian society; and about storytelling itself. It is set in contemporary Delhi and narrated from various viewpoints, including that of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god and scribe of India's great epic, the Mahabharata. Echoing aspects of the epic tale, the narrative follows the lives of Leela and Meera, sisters who have been victimized through various incarnations by Vyasa, composer of the Mahabharata. However, Ganesh has a few tricks up his (many) sleeves, and it may be time for some modern-day retribution, which starts as Leela arrives in Delhi from New York and throws everyone and everything into deliciously described turmoil. VERDICT Albinia handles the complex plot and many, diverse characters she has created with skill and humor while at the same time offering an insightful look at the sociopolitical complexity of present-day India. A remarkable debut novel. [See Prepub Alert, 8/15/11.]—Gwen Vredevoogd, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, VA
Kirkus Reviews
British travel writer Albinia's (Empires of the Indus, 2008) first novel retells the Mahabharata in present-day Delhi. The author makes the epic accessible to less knowledgeable Westerners while keeping its large scope. Elephant-headed Ganesh, the traditional scribe of the Mahabharata, narrates. He summarizes the original epic while explaining how its composer Vyasa, Vyasa's second wife Meera, the slave girl Leela whom Vyasa impregnated and a slew of secondary characters have reappeared through the ages, reliving the original story of egotism, sexual conquest and intrigue, as well as love and loyalty. In his current incarnation, egotistical, womanizing Vyasa is a professor, internationally famous for his controversial take on ancient texts. He has raised his twin son and daughter alone since the death of his wife Meera, whose poetry he published posthumously to great acclaim. Now his son is marrying the daughter of a reactionary right-wing Hindu named Shiva, whose moral rigidity is pure hypocrisy. Meera's adopted sister Leela lives in New York City with her husband Hari, who happens to be Shiva's brother. After 20 years of self-imposed exile, Leela returns to Delhi with Hari to attend the wedding. But she has never told Hari, a sweet-natured businessman, that she knows Vyasa, or anything about her past. A poor orphan, she was adopted by Meera's parents and raised as Meera's sister. The two girls were inseparable until Meera fell in love with the young professor Vyasa, a proponent of free love; attracted to both Meera and Leela he unwittingly impregnated them both. Meera pretended both children were hers and cut off communication with Leela before her death when the "twins" were toddlers. Leela comes face-to-face with her past at the Midsummer's Night Dream of a wedding that causes all the characters to discover their true selves for good or ill. Lively, involving and largely cheerful (despite a graphic rape), but how readers respond will depend in part on their reaction to a white British woman presuming to author sharp satire of Indian culture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393343939
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/7/2013
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Albinia’s honors include a Somerset Maugham Award, the Royal Society of Literature / Jerwood Prize, and the Dolman Travel Prize 2009. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, the Financial Times, and elsewhere. She lives in England.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    entertaining

    interesting novel, melding modern family ties with the gods of an old Indian epicl Somewhat a parody of religion, politics etc. At times the plot is a bit to complicated.

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