The Age of Shiva by Manil Suri

January 10, 2008
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The Age of Shiva
Manil Suri

Norton
01/10/08
Trade Paperback/448 pages
ISBN: 978-0-393-06569-5
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". . . a poignant and wonderful modern fairy tale."

Coming of age in a twilight world caught between ancient and modern myths.

Seventeen-year-old Meera’s sister Roopa introduces Meera to Ashvin, a young man whose singing lights a fire in her heart. Meera’s jealousy of her older sister’s beauty and ease in social situations, and her infatuation with Ashvin, places her reputation in danger, and the only respectable way out is marriage. Her father, a progressive and literate man with radical ideas regarding religion, politics and his daughters’ education, calls Meera’s bluff and marries her to Ashvin whose family is respectable but poor. Ashvin and his family are very traditional, steeped in the religion that Meera’s father believes is a demeaning archaic superstition that has no place in the modern world. He wants more for his daughters and his country.

Caught between tradition and the political, religious and social upheaval of a newly independent India, Meera is weighed down by her husband’s failed dreams and devout religious beliefs and her father’s progressive and often onerous expectations, living in a half fantasy world of movies and ancient mythological traditions unsure of where she fits in.

The Age of Shiva is as much modern mythology as it is a masterful story of the clash of tradition and progress in the uneasy political climate of India in 1955. Manil Suri navigates the perilous waters with a striking literary style that combines the mystical with the pragmatic. Suri uses Hindu mythology and the more modern mythology of movies to brilliant effect in Meera’s struggle to define herself and her place in a world struggling to hold its own against the forces of tradition and the growing pains of progress.

The ebb and flow of Meera’s emotional tides is hypnotic and often jarring, but Suri never loses hold of the reader’s interest, adroitly mixing fact and fantasy in a sweeping and lyrical balance that is delightful. The Age of Shiva in Manil Suri’s hands is a poignant and wonderful modern fairy tale.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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