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Boats on Land

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  180 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Boats on Land is a collection of short stories that offer a new way of looking at the world, and, in particular, India’s little-known northeast. Set in and around Shillong, Cherrapunjee and pockets of Assam, these tales are shaped against a larger historical canvas of the early days of the British Raj, the World Wars, conversions to Christianity, and the missionaries.

Hardcover, 296 pages
Published October 2012 by Vintage Books
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Boats on Land by Janice PariatThe House with a Thousand Stories by Aruni KashyapThe Black Hill by Mamang DaiLand Where I Flee by Prajwal Parajuly
Books set in North East India
1st out of 4 books — 2 voters
Once Upon a Life by Temsula AoBitter Wormwood by Easterine KireWhen the River Sleeps by Easterine KireMari by Easterine KireThese Hills Called Home by Temsula Ao
North East Indian literature
11th out of 20 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sairam Krishnan
Feb 11, 2013 Sairam Krishnan rated it it was amazing
I started school in Shillong. My father was in the Indian Air Force and my memories of the small, hilly radar station are blurred, but they bear some of the fondest memories of my childhood.

It was the early 90s and it was a strange place to a boy from Pondicherry, but I grew to love it, and my love affair with hills and rain stemmed from then. Been years now, but Janice Pariat has made me long for the Scotland of the East with a lust only people who've lived in Shillong will ever know.

Me and my
Aug 13, 2016 Milan rated it it was amazing
Janice Pariat's first collection of short stories "Boats on Land" is one of the best books that I've read this year. The 15 stories which comprise this book provide a fresh look at one of India's most beautiful landscapes - Shillong. A few stories are of the British era and mostly are set in post-independence India. I found that the stories have a poetic feel to it. Some of them are drawn from the Khasi folklore, some show the political upheaval that the state has gone through and some show the ...more
Agomonee Barbaruah
Jul 12, 2013 Agomonee Barbaruah rated it really liked it
Janice Pariat's Boats on Land is like a breath of fresh air when you are fishing into the inescapable bulk of many 'had-nothing-to-do-so-wrote-a-book' writers among emerging new writers. Her writing has a poignancy that is equally poetic and accepting of the reality, as it is silently and subtly powerful. Shillong and Assam, well mostly Shillong has been sketched in its bright and dark shades so well, you would feel you were living in some bygone era, thanks to her recall of the colonial ...more
Feb 26, 2013 Raghu rated it liked it
A review of this book in one of the Indian newspapers said that this book is a collection of short stories, all set in the North east of India by a native author. That was enough for me to want to read the book. We hardly ever come across writers from the NE region published in English in publications in the heartland of India. I have heard of writers like Siddhartha Deb and Anjum Hassan when it comes to writings on Shillong but have never managed to read either of them. For me, Janice Pariat is ...more
Nov 28, 2012 Suneetha rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended.

Read my full review at

Here's a short summary of what I think.

There are 15 stories, all of which cover the period from British colonial rule to the hartal-ridden, angst-filled, factionalism-threatened today — that’s about two hundred years. As we read from the first story to the last, the events unfold in chronological order with different sets of protagonists.

Ms Pariat’s narrators, many of whom are tweens or teens, stand at the margins
Reshmy Pillai
Nov 11, 2012 Reshmy Pillai rated it really liked it
Janice could not have chosen a better time to bring us stories from places in and around Shillong, that are a world inside the world we inhibit.The collection initiates the reader to the myths, legends, beliefs, superstitions, political, social and cultural flow for over a century and a half though some well narrated recollections. Full review:
Dec 30, 2013 Nikita rated it it was amazing
Sheer brilliance and a beautiful insight into the quaint North Eastern lives... so much we don't know!
Apr 01, 2013 Saswati rated it really liked it
Excellent read. Haunting stories that stay with you long after you have read the book, written in very engaging prose. A must read for all of us who lived in Shillong in the 80's -90's.
Mar 08, 2015 Yasmine rated it it was amazing
Such an amazing book. Very wonderfully written, almost poetical. I want to read it again. Now
Oct 20, 2012 dEstInEdnOmAd rated it it was amazing
loved it!
Mar 21, 2014 Amit rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Good fiction writers from the northeast India are a rare breed. Pariat's writing is quite nice!
Malvika Jaswal
Mar 15, 2014 Malvika Jaswal rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shaz S
Dec 11, 2012 Shaz S rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Blurb on the back: Boats on Land is a unique way of looking at India’s northeast and its people against a larger historical canvas – the early days of the British Raj, the World Wars, conversions to Christianity, and the missionaries.

This is a world in which the everyday is infused with folklore and a deep belief in the supernatural. Here a girl dreams of being a firebird. An artist watches souls turn into trees. A man shape shifts into a tiger. Another is bewitched by water fairies. Political
Jun 11, 2013 Shaili rated it liked it
Boats on Land by Janice Pariat is a collection of short stories based in the North East, mostly Shillong (a place that I’ve always wanted to visit). The common theme that connects all the stories is that of Change and how each person deals with it in his or her own way. Some become quite fanatical or crazy as you might call them, some move on while some spend the remaining time in their lives, in lamenting and thinking about the past.
I have to say this, the stories in ‘Boats on Land’ are quite
b00k r3vi3ws
Aug 10, 2014 b00k r3vi3ws rated it really liked it

Janice Pariat has indeed brought together a collection of short stories that are so different yet so beautiful when read together.

I have read this book quite some time back yet I intentionally held on to myself from writing a review of this book because the amount of emotions that I went through while reading this book was simply unexpected and I wanted to capture each of them. But even after re-reading a couple of stories, I feel oddly unequipped to revi
Kulpreet Yadav
Jun 16, 2014 Kulpreet Yadav rated it liked it
Set in Meghalaya, a piece of paradise, away from the popular routes of tourists, both domestic and foreign, Boats on Land, is an intimate journey that introduces you to the sights and sounds of this amazing corner of India with its characteristic narrative replete with folklore and candid tales. I have been to Shillong only once in my life. I think I was in class 6 when I had accompanied my parents and younger brother for a short family vacation in the early eighties. This book brought back ...more
Privy Trifles
Jul 24, 2016 Privy Trifles rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, review
I somehow love short stories a lot for in a few words they have a lot to convey and sometimes leave behind a lot of it unsaid and yet heard. The moment I saw the praises heaped on this book I knew I had to read this one for one it was a collection of short stories and secondly the recognition was tempting enough. And I was not disappointed at all.

15 stories. Each unique and beautiful in its own complete self. Not only shows the writers brilliance at handling things but also the ease with which
Jan 27, 2016 Farnaaz rated it it was amazing
Magical and enchanting...Pariat's writing is as imaginative as J.K.Rowling's and as surreal as Jhumpa Lahiri's..I cannot do justice to this book by my must read this book...the book also explores same-sex relationships (the title story is one such story) in an uninhibitated way...The stories are a variety of fable,folklore and real issues...The stories which touched my heart were the one about water fairies who pull innocent men deep into water bodies,a shape shifting man,the love ...more
Ravi Jain
Full review:

The beauty of the north-east lies in its culture, its people and its landscapes. The seven sisters, as these seven states are called, have their own culture, beliefs and language, and each one is more beautiful than the other. But these are in jeopardy due to unrestrained modernisation. I have recently come across many stories about the changing face of the north-east due to mass migration, uncontrolled urbanisation and increasing militarisati
Jan 06, 2013 Indiabookstore rated it really liked it
I have always been fascinated by the cultural intricacies and varieties of our country. From the North to the South, from the East to the West, we are a land of diversity. Boats on Land is set in yet another corner of this diverse country- the Northeast. Exceedingly distinct from the rest of India- both geographically and culturally- this is a land of mysteries and mystics, of legends and charms, of folklore and spirits. This is a land where reality and myth have interspersed in time to create a ...more
Vasav Dave
Mar 18, 2016 Vasav Dave rated it really liked it
Spooky Little, Beautiful Stories.

To me, 'Boats on Land' by Janice Pariat stands out because of her hauntingly beautiful writing style. Shillong and its forests and rivers and hills and waterfalls and mist and fairies, leave you dreamy; while lingering onto it a little longer.

My favorites were Kut Madan where a girl dreams of being firebird, Pilgrimage where every one of us is on a pilgrimage of the past, the most beautiful one Sky Graves where love can change the shapes and soul. The monologu
Jun 03, 2014 Prathap rated it really liked it
Populated by quirky, interesting characters from the hills (and Shillong is one of the predominant characters with its misty peaks, crooked lanes, beautiful people and nasty traffic), Boats on Land is an evocative collection of short stories that provides hard-to-find observations about people's lives in the hills of north eastern India. Immigrant crisis looms over many of the stories like an omnipresent dark cloud while few other are peppered with personal, domestic crises. Lucidly felt and ...more
Ahana Maitra
Nov 09, 2015 Ahana Maitra rated it it was amazing
Pariat's writing is so haunting. It is almost as if she can recreate Shillong and make you want to visit the place. The highlights of Boats on Land are definitely the fourth story, Dream of The Golden Mahseer and the fifth one, Secret Corridors. The sense of completion at the end of each story - which however discounts nothing from its ambiguity - leads to a sense of fulfilment which, in my experience, almost never happens for short stories.
I was reading one story per day to, sort of, draw out t
The Book Outline
Nov 10, 2012 The Book Outline rated it really liked it
A girl dreams of being a firebird. An artist watches souls turn into trees. A man shape-shifts into a tiger. Written with political struggles and social unrest mingling with fireside tales and age old superstitions as the background, Boats on Land is a unique way of looking at India’s northeast and its people against a larger historical canvas – the early days of the British Raj, the World Wars, conversions to Christianity, and the missionaries.

Read the complete review at http://thebookoutline.b
Tarang Sinha
Jul 18, 2014 Tarang Sinha rated it really liked it
Boats on Land is a unique collection of 15 unusual short stories, set in the North East of India, mostly Shillong, that covers different and interesting themes.

Beautiful writing style of the author and crisp narration are the highlight of the book, that create lovely imagery....

Read the full review here:

3.5 stars!
Vinay Leo R.
These aren’t romance stories, or horror stories or such set genre. The point of commonality is perhaps a sense of magic. Not literally of course, not always, but Pariat’s wordplay and language is such. I love the stories for that sense of place, the beauty of the North Eastern parts of India....

Full review:
Subhadip C
Jul 14, 2014 Subhadip C rated it it was amazing
Dreams, folktales and Shillong come together is this fabulous book. Short stories that reach inside you, make you feel, that's what this is. Janice has written such an wonderful book. one of the best books I've ever come across.
Lokesh Singh
Apr 09, 2015 Lokesh Singh rated it it was amazing
makes me, want to go back to shillog ,again n to see it with my new eyes n to feel d breeze , n d dusty walk along stream n bury my hands in cozy sands along d vast span of sleeping river
Waled Aadnan
Jan 25, 2015 Waled Aadnan rated it really liked it
The stories have sentimental value to me, being set in places I've grown up around. And Janice Pariat's writing is sheer poetry. A book I'd come back to, again and again.
Jan 24, 2016 Bharat rated it really liked it
Great great book with stories that I had no background on. Brought out Shillong, its people and their stories beautifully.
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Janice is a writer based between London and New Delhi/Shillong (depending on the weather). Her first book Boats on Land: A Collection of Short Stories won the Sahitya Akademi Young Writer Award and the Crossword Award for Fiction in 2013. Her novel Seahorse has been published by Vintage, Random House India, in November 2014.

She studied English Literature at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and Histor
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“Stories are told at festive, joyful gatherings, but the ones narrated at funerals are special because they reaffirm existence, of the listeners and the narrators. They are times of remembrance that haul the past into the present, and keep people alive even when they’re gone.” 6 likes
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