Clear Light of Day
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Clear Light of Day

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  1,111 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Set in India's Old Delhi, CLEAR LIGHT OF DAY is Anita Desai's tender, warm, and compassionate novel about family scars, the ability to forgive and forget, and the trials and tribulations of familial love. At the novel's heart are the moving relationships between the members of the Das family, who have grown apart from each other. Bimla is a dissatisfied but ambitious teach...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 12th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1980)
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Best Indian Books
142nd out of 508 books — 1,470 voters
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Books about the Indian Subcontinental Partition
14th out of 68 books — 47 voters


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Community Reviews

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Rachel Rueckert
I read this book as part of my directed readings course I'm taking here in India, but unlike the other books, this one was written by a women, and also unlike the other books, this one was much less focused on India and much more focused on family and everyday life.

In a way I found it kind of refreshing. Yes, it was about the Partition of India, but it was also about the partition of a family. It had a very Forest Gump feel to it. History happened, like the assassination of Gandhi, but it was me...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, raised in an old, dusty house in Old Delhi sometime before the Indian Partition. The story starts in medias res, they were grown-ups already. The younger sister and her diplomat husband visit their old house where the elder, unmarried sister and their youngest brother (who is mentally retarded and does almost nothing but plays records in his old gramophone) still live. The other brother, who had become rich, already lives elsewhere and seldom visits t...more
Julie
This is a beautiful, tender drama about familial love and loyaly, coping and forgiveness. It tells the story of contemporary India and the impact of political turmoil & civil war on a family, the plummet into mental illness and how a family copes to protect and take care of its own. Desai is a wonderful story teller- I could feel the moist heat of India as I peered through the dim, heavy interiors of the family compound, hear the tropical birds nesting in the overgrown, decaying garden as I...more
Stephen
Set against the dismal, crumbling world of Old Delhi, Desai's novel is a wise portrayal of a family that, like so many families, is threatening to come apart. Time and the inevitable mistakes and misunderstandings that come with time's passage weigh heavily on two sisters, Bim and Tara. The first is the sister who remained behind, occupying a family home filled with ghosts and a brain-damaged ghostlike brother. Tara is the sister who left, seeking a new world far beyond Delhi's confines. Each in...more
Neil
If this book is on your reading list, I recommend you promptly remove it. This is a meandering tale of people, families and a country, all falling apart. While this theme alone could have had much potential, in Desai's hands it turns into a meditation on hopelessness and depression. The book might be lyrical or technically well put together but it leaves the reader feeling empty and the words never take on any greater meaning or provide any greater experience than their own shabby existence on t...more
Jennyb
Desai's Clear Light of Day is set in Old Delhi, shortly before Partition. It isn't really about the division of Pakistan away from India, though the reader gets some sense of what it was like to live through that event (as an aside, if anyone knows of a novel or history that looks more closely at Partition, I'd love to know about it). Mostly, this story focuses on the relationship of four siblings growing up during that time. And while Desai's setting is so atmospheric, you can practically feel...more
Laura (booksnob)
This is the second book I have read by Anita Desai. I am not sure what it is but we don't seem to make a good author/reader connection. While I liked this story, I just wasn't riveted nor did I see the broader connection to India's history probably because the author didn't give me enough information. Darn it, I really tried to like it but she just didn't have me at hello like other books do.
Bookaholic
Am ales să citesc un roman indian, zilele trecute. Nu pentru că am prea mult timp, nu dintr-o curiozitate capricioasă şi în nici un caz din cauza condiţiilor meteo. A fost vorba de o foarte personală meteorologie a lecturii, pentru că în ultimii doi ani, la sfîrşitul lui ianuarie îmi strîngeam bine rucsacul de şireturi şi plecam în India. Pentru că anul ăsta nu s-a mai putut, am rămas măcar cu cititul şi n-a putut să mă scuture de nostalgia asta subcontinentală mai nimic altceva.

Aveam în casă Lu...more
Brigdh
A novel about troubled family relationships in an old family in Delhi; the events of the novel are split half between a dramatic summer in 1947 and half in the modern day (though in this case, I think "modern day" is late 70s or early 80s- it was fairly vague). This reminded me a lot of Faulkner: long stream-of-consciousness passages, an old money family fallen on harder times, the tangled ingrown complicated relationships of the family. Less incest, though! And also there's actually a happy end...more
Vasha7
"Nothing's over, ever." That's the conclusion that Bim and Tara come to after they spend a few weeks together in the childhood home where Bim still lives. That could be ominous, because there are a lot of unpleasant memories stirred up, from a childhood full of illness, unhappiness, and secrets. But they also have a chance to remember the sometimes-troubled love that united them and their brother Raja. Bim wonders why she's still keeping the house, caring for their autistic brother Baba, going t...more
Librarykvpattom
I consider Anita Desai’s “Clear Light of Day” as a poetic novel as it considerably deals with symbols and suggestions. Her use of “the house” imagery is at the center which signifies dust, dullness and decay.

As the novel begins, you’ll notice that the house of the Das family does not change except decays. Like Anita Desai’s other novels, the setting is Old Delhi. The interesting thing you’ll notice is she skillfully synthesizes the image of house with the lives of the Das family. The house is as...more
Zulu
Trying to read a whole bunch of shorter novels to catch up with my schedule...

The Clear Light of Day is about a family in India during and after Independence, but mostly about the two sisters, Bim and Tara, who react to their parents' (benign?) neglect in very different ways, and as a result are rather estranged when they meet again as adults.

The novel was structured in an interesting way, and I'm undecided on whether it worked for me. It begins with Tara coming home to visit Bim at their family...more
Baylee
Leggi la recensione su Lovely Dreams!

In questo romanzo si parla di due sorelle e due fratelli cresciuti amorevolmente dalla zia Mira dato che i genitori, pur vivendo nella stessa casa, sono troppo presi dai loro impegni mondani per poter prestare attenzione ai figli.

Bim, Raja, Tara e Baba sono diversi, ma accomunati fin da bambini dal bisogno di scappare dalla loro situazione familiare di indifferenza e bassezza. E così crescendo hanno preso strade diverse: Bim ha studiato storia e si è resa aut...more
Sue Tincher
This book was written in 1980 about a family in Old Delhi, set during post-partition times. The timid little sister, Tara, is back visiting her family home, where the brusque older sister, Bim, a history teacher, takes care of the autistic brother, Baba. Baba does not speak and plays records incessantly. Their distant, unloving parents died when they were teens. A loving aunt lived with them, but became an alcoholic and a terrible burden on Bim, who assumed the role of head of the family. Tara h...more
Louise
From back cover:

"Set in India's Old Delhi, CLEAR LIGHT OF DAY is Anita Desai's tender, warm, and compassionate novel about family scars, the ability to forgive and forget, and the trials and tribulations of familial love. At the novel's heart are the moving relationships between the members of the Das family, who have grown apart from each other. Bimla is a dissatisfied but ambitious teacher at a women's college who lives in her childhood home, where she cares for her mentally challenged brother...more
Liberty
This book reminded me a lot of George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss. Now, just to remind me of George Eliot means she's a terrific writer, but this particular book reminded me of my least favorite of Eliot's novels, with its claustrophobia and broken family relationships.
Sylvia
Just as slow moving as India must be in the heat. A small book I thought it would be a quick read. Alas - it plods along like the snail loved by Tara. Descriptive of life in India during the turbulent time of the separation of Pakistan and later, this story nonetheless had me unable to read in bed because I would drift off to sleep very quickly. The family is emotionally needy, as seen from the perspectives of neighbors, relatives,and assorted minor characters. But blood is thicker than water is...more
Teresa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ellen Pierson
i struggled through the first chapter or so of this book but then i got really into it. it's pretty much the story of the relationships between three siblings, which doesn't necessarily sound that interesting but it really was. anita desai's characters stand out because their flaws are so believable. they really seem like real people. the rift between the main characters happens about in tandem with partition, but i would stay away from any big microcosm/macrocosm arguments. the only quibble i h...more
Ali

Anita Desai is a beautiful writer, the sense of time and place in this novel is strong. The narrative takes the reader from the present, back to 1947 and the upheaval of partition. Yet this is merely a backdrop, the rendering apart of a family juxtaposed with that of a nation. The relationships between these family members are exquisitely examined, through daily preoccupations and long remembered squabbles.
The daily routines and preoccupations of her older sister Bim, are brought into sharp focu...more
Shaikha_i_240509
The story talks about family who are from Delhi. And talks about everyone, Tara is a girl who is married to a diplomat man. She went to visit her family where Bim is her older sister, she's an history teacher. Bim is forced to take care of her autistic brother called Baba and her aunt who is an alcoholic. There parents died, their mother falls ill and died and their father died after her by a car accident.
Karen
I love books that are told from different perspectives. This novel, set in India, begins in the present day when Tara, the younger sister in a family of four siblings, returns to her parental home in Old Delhi, and we learn about her siblings and the family dynamics. The second part, told from sister Bim's point of view, is about her relationship with her brother Raja and how she became the family caregiver. The third section, again from Tara's perspective, focuses on her early childhood.

On top...more
Gavin Malavolta
I read the daughter - Kiran Desai - before I got round to reading the mother. Now after reading Clear Light of Day (and Fire on the Mountain earlier) I am struck by their similarities. Like mother like daughter? Anyway, I enjoyed this novel. It is a slow read - reminds me of the build up to the monsoon - the slow, creeping and relentless heat. Heavily setting and character focused, the plot darts around through analepsis and prolepsis to build up a complex set of relationships and familial confl...more
Tara Humphries
This book was beautifully written and had nice metaphors. However it was brutally slow paced and I often found myself spacing out for a few pages and having to go back and re-read. I would not want to read this again, but if you enjoy a slow story with fascinating characters but very little plot, you might like this. It was interesting to have a bit of a history lesson as well; some of what happened had to do with the partition. While much of the book was sad and reminiscent, it ends in a positi...more
Thing Two
Set in India's Old Delhi, Clear Light of Day recounts the lives of four siblings - two sisters and two brothers - as they grow up in an ever changing India.

Told primarily through the eyes of the oldest sister, Bimla, Anita Desai does a beautiful job describing the community, the changing expectations of men and women, and the difficulties we all face with our siblings.

If I had a complaint, it would be that Desai uses too many similes, and her sentences are too long. This seems trite, but it did...more
Annette Kaiser
Slow but extremely thoughtful
Bigpoppa
SHITE
Manish
After my previous tryst with Anita Desai (In Custody), I wasn't too excited while starting this. But contrary to all my expectations, Clear Light of Day was excellent. It narrates the story of a spinster left to take care of her childhood caretaker and retarted brother and forgotten by a poet brother and a sister married to a career diplomat. The book written in the form of reminiscences brings alive the world of Delhi in 1947 and subsequently. Check it out if you enjoy intense reads!.
Portia S
Oh, this was depressing, and then not so depressing. Desai describes the lives of four siblings Bim, Raja, Tara and Baba, illustrating their present day lives in post-partitioned India, and then flashes back to childhood and teenage years. Sigh, issues highlighted here were the plight of the Indian widow, relations between Hindus and Muslims, abandonment, sibling relationships, inner oppression and escape. Good read.
Jessica
Anita Desai is a meticulous writer. In Clear Light of Day, she creates a microcosm of an Indian family in the 1940s-1970s, and each of her characters is thoughtfully and compassionately portrayed. Her novel is reminiscent of a British social novel, and she uses the form well. Some character changes didn't sit entirely well with me, but on the whole, I thought the book provided a perceptive look into family life.
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Anita Desai was born in 1937. Her published works include adult novels, children's books and short stories. SHe is a member of the Advisory Board for English of the National Academy of Letters in Delhi and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in London. Anita Mazumdar Desai is an Indian novelist and Emeritus John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technolo...more
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