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The Circle of Reason

3.41  ·  Rating Details  ·  991 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
Amitav Ghosh’s extraordinary first novel makes a claim on literary turf held by Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie. In a vivid and magical story, The Circle of Reason traces the misadventures of Alu, a young master weaver in a small Bengali village who is falsely accused of terrorism. Alu flees his home, traveling through Bombay to the Persian Gulf to North Africa w ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Mariner Books (first published June 16th 1986)
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The God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryThe White Tiger by Aravind AdigaMidnight's Children by Salman RushdieThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Best Indian Books
166th out of 699 books — 2,111 voters
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Books Set in India
254th out of 279 books — 277 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,436)
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If we wait for everything to be right,again,we'll wait for ever while the world falls apart.The only hope is to make do with what we've got. p450

For the extremely challenged characters in this magnificent sweeping epic,the above quote is the theme song of their lives. AG gives us a work that is not only technically amazing,following the form of an Indian raga,but also outstanding in the finely nuanced depth of his characters in his frank but compassionate presentation.

In the end,although we may
Sep 28, 2011 Tracy marked it as to-read
Shelves: didn-t-finish
OMG. I couldn't finish it. Horror of all horrors, I couldn't finish a book by an author that I admire. But I realized what it is. I was struggling with the same thing in 'The Hungry Tide'. Ghosh spends an inordinate amount of time developing characters, their pasts, their little histories, their unique experiences. The plot gets put on hold as we dive (once again) into the history of a newly introduced character and then the anecdote takes you further and further away from the current storyline ...more
Rachael Murphy
It has taken me forever to read this book and I struggled to finish it. I truly hate to say it because I love Amitav Ghosh and everything else I have read but I didn't enjoy this. Like his other novels the scenes are perfectly set but the chacaters though well rounded had no background and you were only getting to know them when there storyline ends and you move on to a whole new set of people and another unrelated story. There were certainly elements that were taken the whole way through by way ...more
Apr 05, 2014 Marianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Circle of Reason is the first novel by Indian author, Amitav Ghosh. The story of Nachiketa Bose, known throughout the narration as Alu because of his misshapen head, is related from his arrival at his uncle Balaram’s house in the Bengali town of Lalpukur, when he is orphaned at eight years old. A boy who becomes gifted at languages and a skilful weaver, a cascade of events leads to Alu’s flight across India, into the Middle East and across northern Africa, pursued by a tenacious policeman, J ...more
Murali Neelakantan
May 24, 2014 Murali Neelakantan rated it liked it
I wish I had read this book before I read all the others by Amitav Ghosh. It has all the characteristics one has come to expect of an Amitacv Ghosh novel - deep research, great narration with such level of detail that it feels like an impressionist painting, a significant item or thought, The Life of Louis Pasteur in this case, that binds all the main characters who travel through time on their own paths which Ghosh conspires to ensure cross during some time in the story and connections to Benga ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Martha rated it did not like it
Shelves: audiobook
I think one star is too much for this book. I did not find the point. All the characters are mentally ill, even though the author tries to pass them as normal. I was hoping to at least learn something from the setting and situations. But the characters are so outrageously crazy that I cannot trust any of the situations or the background setting. Don't waste your time.
Jul 31, 2009 Rochelle rated it liked it
Shelves: non-western
I loved In an Antique Land, so I had very high expectations for this novel. I found it enjoyable but not nearly as excellent as I expected.
Riju Ganguly
Mar 13, 2012 Riju Ganguly rated it liked it
This is a strange novel. The narrative is clean & taut. The characters are real, and there is abcolutely nothing fictitious about any of them (I have encountered people like them). The landscape against which these characters & events enact their unique drama of life, love, death, misery, hope and frustration is vast and yet real. There is a connectivity between every two event, and the whole thing indeed makes up a circle, but.... This is pretty unnerving, but the fact is that the only ...more
Jan 12, 2008 Clark rated it liked it
I took a class with Amitav, but I had never read any of his work up to this point. The novel was both surprising and unsurprising. There were things that I expected from him based on his teaching style and the books that he chose for us to read and some of those expectations were met. His attention to detail was immaculate, though occasionally distracting. On the other hand, my favorite part of the book was a section that recounted the dealings of small character in a short story format. It fit ...more
Abhisikta Chaudhuri
Apr 21, 2016 Abhisikta Chaudhuri rated it it was amazing
No idea how this novel managed to get 3.4 stars. Agreed that it's an unconventional novel, not one of those feel good types which you can just finish off in a day or two. Each sentence will make you think, they will make you adore his writing style as well as his execution style. It gave me a breath of fresh air from all the conventional novels I have read in recent times.
An early work of the writer, this has a flavour of the literature of Bengal where the author originates from, with the first part reminiscent of the works of many great authors of the land in its style, language and even in the humour, the imagery and the motivation of the characters, the conflicts. Tarashankar Bandopadhyaya, Bimal Mitra, one is reminded of a whole sea of literature behind this that is the heritage of a rich culture, as one reads the first part. The second part is reminiscent of ...more
Apr 02, 2012 Lakshmi rated it liked it
It was interesting upto a point but then I felt it dragged a bit too long. True to Amitav's style, his characters are well etched, although he has tended to stretch the uni-dimension that he fixates on a little more this time. Clearly an earlier work, you can see his profression from here through to his IBIS trilogy.
Not a terrible book to read but not one that you will miss terribly if you dont come to it.
Liza Daniel
Aug 10, 2014 Liza Daniel rated it did not like it
I tried and the end I am tired of reading this book.this is the lousiest book I have ever read in my life.couldnt believe such a pointless novel.i was attracted to the book because of the caption'the circle of reason'.but couldn't find any reason to read further.every chapter has a new character n the description of past of each character is diverting the actual circle of reason.
Feb 01, 2015 Sarita rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book and some parts were exceptional…but I didn't have the patience and fortitude for the meandering storyline…so many characters and so little interest...
Paolo Gianoglio
Mar 09, 2014 Paolo Gianoglio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mi sono lasciato cullare da questo romanzone, lungo quasi 500 pagine. Non so se sono riuscito a capire tutto quello che Ghosh voleva raccontare, ma poco importa. Ho goduto delle atmosfere, dei personaggi, della geografia, dei racconti nei racconti, della coralità. Ho viaggiato, dall’India all’Algeria, passando per mari e deserto. Ho imparato che lingua e cultura uniscono e dividono a ogni latitudine, che tante storie che noi crediamo tipiche della nostra cultura occidentale sono il frutto di una ...more
Jul 23, 2015 Aarthi rated it did not like it
This is the first time I ve been disappointed with Amitav Ghosh's novel.I could not connect to even a single character in this book. I could not even sympathesize or empathesize with them. The only reason I did not shelve the book was that I was expecting some redeeming miracle to arise out of the plot as the pages were flipped.But alas there was none! The plot itself was leading to nowhere.His detailed characterizations are usually a delight to read but this time it was plain boring and pointle ...more
Jul 31, 2015 Molshri rated it liked it
The strange motley of characters made this a very interesting read. Moreover, I love Amitav Ghosh's style of writing and his great command over the English language. Alu and all the other people around him are so weird and all his adventures are very strange indeed.
This book has poor reviews but if you have liked his other novels and his descriptive style - you will like this book.
Amitav Ghosh takes you through an unusual journey through different but hostile parts of the world and each part is
May 04, 2014 Lester rated it really liked it
This was Amitav Ghosh's first novel, and in this I saw the start of the style which led to the complex intertwining of characters and tales in his more recent books. The story is of a simple boy, Alu, who through circumstance more than anything else comes to be a weaver, then a branded terrorist, a fugitive, a construction labourer and a messiah. The story itself is fairly riveting, as the reader always wants to know what will happen next. Alu and his companions are constantly being pulled into ...more
Feb 15, 2014 Patricia rated it liked it
I've liked Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke so much that I decided to read some early Amitav Ghosh while waiting for the third and last book in the trilogy. While I often need to check out British-use and archaic vocabulary, this book was far less readable for me in that I don't understand what people were thinking and why they did some of the things they did. I know it's cultural, but I think in his more recent books, he has a better editor, and the more recent books read more fluently and cle ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Jamie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
The Circle of Reason is divided into three parts, and each section on its own presents a compelling story with a sympathetic protagonist at the center. The problem with the novel as a whole is that the protagonist changes in every section, and the thread that weaves them together is constantly weakened. The only character who carries through the whole book is Alu, a lumpy-headed orphaned boy who grows into a man. Unfortunately he spends much of the narrative as a silent bystander. And other char ...more
May 07, 2016 N rated it it was ok
Historien om Alu og hans mange utfordringer når han urettmessig blir anklaget for å være terrorist, på et bakteppe av hans fosterfaren quisotiske kamp mot overtro og uforstand, er rikt og mangefasettert, men det ble likevel tungt å opprettholde interessen for en historie med mange fint tegnede personer, men tidvis med svak episk fremdrift.
Sep 17, 2013 Radhika rated it it was ok
The story starts promisingly with an orphaned boy- Alu, who is sent to live with his uncle in a small village with his 'rationalist' uncle who is obsessed with Louis Pasteur, germs and carbolic acid. There are some promising characters like the bird loving police investigator- Jyoti Das, who looks perpetually surprised thanks to his one raised eyebrow. However, the plot has too many characters and their sub plots are too confusing to keep track.As you start relating to the characters, the story ...more
May 18, 2015 Sandeep rated it liked it
I am a big fan of Amitav Ghosh and I believe he is one of the best Indian writers who write in English. Circle of reason is definitely not his best book but it has his inimitable style and history too it... its a tad bit obscure as the characters are not as strong as his other books !
Apr 02, 2015 Kookie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read just like a John Irving novel (with fewer bears). I (like the author) lost the thread of the story periodically, but had no trouble picking it back up down the road. I look forward to reading the rest of his books.
Feb 07, 2016 Liza rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the kind of book I would have usually read, but made for a refreshing change. Bulky narratives during the start put me off but by the time I reached the end, I had enjoyed it thoroughly.
Ravi Gupta
Jul 01, 2014 Ravi Gupta rated it liked it
interesting read. story was interesting. chracters real. however overall there appears to be too Much sadness and you want the novel to end and this journey to finish.
Aug 06, 2015 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading so many good books lately, but really this was the most enjoyable AND impressive book I have read in a long time I think...
Jan 16, 2011 Mady rated it really liked it
Shelves: bc, 2005
It took me about a month to read this book. The positive thing about having taken this long is that the book was a lovely company through this time as I read something everyday. And it was always hard to stop reading it. Amitav Ghosh is becoming one of my favourite storytellers. I love reading books when I have the feeling that the story is so detailed that it must either be truth or meant a loooot of research done by the author.

This book is about so much that it's hard to sinthetize it. For me,
Rekha Warrier
The worst book I have ever read I think.
Jan 26, 2016 Jodi added it
Recommends it for: not sure
Meh! Just couldn't get into this book.
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Amitav Ghosh is one of India's best-known writers. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, The Hungry Tide. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexan
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