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Clear Light of Day

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  1,963 Ratings  ·  124 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, 183 pages
Published September 12th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1980)
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It's startling when I collide into a book like this, one which silently commands me to follow its gaze into the abyss - within and without - and then casts a mocking glance my way, challenging me to take it apart piece by piece. Theme. Plot. Imagery. Structure. Backdrop. Sociopolitical significance.

I dare you to deploy words, sentences, phrases to probe the uncharted depths of my insight into the workings of the human psyche. I dare you to remain inoculated against the power of this terrible and
This is a sad book made sadder by the possibility that such fictional families might actually exist anywhere in the world.
A family is one's anchor; sometimes it also becomes the millstone around one's neck: filling the one who goes out & ahead in the world with chronic guilt and the one who is left behind with lasting resentment. Desai's small unit, torn apart, standing in for a nation partitioned & unable to come to terms with its loss. The emotional poignancy & an astute evocation
Rachel Rueckert
Jul 29, 2011 Rachel Rueckert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
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
Jan 17, 2015 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Manuel Valls
Shelves: fiction

This novel about four siblings in pre- and post-partition India grew on me. The opening pages were so slow, so atmospheric, the setting of Old Delhi was hot and dusty....these are all qualities I often find intolerable. Desai is a quality writer. Objectively, this is a high quality novel. Family relationships are beautifully limned, atmospheres are so well described you feel like you are in the house or on the lawn with the Das siblings. Rarely have the gestures and expressions of cats and dogs
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
Sep 06, 2015 Siddharth rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
Read in June 2015

"Clear Light of Day is...a novel as wonderfully contemplative as a cup of afternoon tea." - The Blurb.

I concur wholeheartedly.
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
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.
Dec 21, 2015 Bogdan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-flavor
Some books have a slow start, like a diesel engine. But after they warm up a little bit, they unveil what they really are. This is the case of this novel, that I was tempted to abandon in the first 90 pages. Once I got beyond Part 1 (that has in my edition around 90 pages), I really knew I found a good book.

Marketed by the editors as a story about family, forgiving and forgetting, I thought it could be a soap opera. But after checking that it was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize, I was certain i
Stephen Durrant
Dec 27, 2009 Stephen Durrant rated it really liked it
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
Oct 15, 2011 Neil rated it it was ok
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
Nov 08, 2012 Zulu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This book is about the quiet and slow disintegration of a family living during partition time in India. At the center of this story are two sisters Bim and Tara Bas who are reunited when Tara returns home to India to attend a family wedding. The story is told in 4 chapters and in the present and childhood past (through the memories of each sister). In many ways the family story parallels the historical backdrop of the partition of India in 1947. The two sisters could not be more different. Bim i ...more
I enjoyed this book because it was very different to the type of novel that I usually read. The pace was very slow and the setting was entirely within the confines of the family house in Delhi.
When Tara comes home to visit her family, together with her husband and children, the silence and dust of the years are both disturbed and old memories are stirred. Bim, Tara's sister, has been left behind both physically and emotionally at the old house, looking after her aunt who drinks and her younger b
I'm not sure what it is that put me off this book, but something did. Clear Light of Day is a book about 4 siblings of an moldering Old Delhi family - the 2 boys are important but aren't given a perspective. The book follows the two girls. The older Bimla, the spinster, who has made it her life's work to look after a mentally disabled younger brother. She's also an expert in carrying grudges, and she hasn't ever forgiven her charismatic older brother for leaving them and going off to marry their ...more
Anindita Satpathi
It's a slightly perplexing book. I liked the content of the story, rendered in excruciating detail, because I have a soft spot for 'sibling stories' but something was missing. Years marked by momentous events crystallised in history books are largely pompous accounts of statesmanship. Fiction then fills the gap. This is set around 1947. There are quite a few interesting nuggets—all that the four kids do through the day is directed at keeping boredom at bay, which meant devising games involving w ...more
Oct 21, 2015 cameron rated it liked it
I was disappointed in this book about contemporary Indian life compared one aging sister from America re-visits her Indian family who still sit, numbly in the old, flaking mason and suffer with sighs on the shadowy green lit veranda. I've read a fair bit of wonderful contemporary Indian fiction over the last few years where the characters, plot and descriptions reveal everything to the reader in gorgeous prose and surprising revelations. This, however is not one of them. Nothing really changes f ...more
Mallika Soni
Aug 28, 2015 Mallika Soni rated it it was amazing
I spent thrice the time I would have spent on a book. perhaps, more than thrice the time. But there always will be this book that you would come across which you will refrain from finishing and keeping at bay. you will always want it to go on and on and on as if the book is an extended metaphor for your whole damn existence. This is such a book.

Shubham, if you are reading this review, please read the book as well.
(I own a paperback)
abhishek  Chakraborty
Aug 13, 2015 abhishek Chakraborty rated it did not like it
disgusting, overrated, useless abundance of descriptive details, shallow characters, lifeless plot, do not read it unless u have to.
Nov 29, 2016 S. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who leave... and those who stay
Recommended to S. by: this review
Shortlisted for the 1980 Man Booker Prize

“Isn’t it strange how life won’t flow, like a river, but moves in jumps, as if it were held back by locks that are opened now and then to let it jump forwards in a kind of flood? There are these long still stretches – nothing happens – each day is exactly like the other – plodding, uneventful – and then suddenly there is a crash – mighty deeds take place – momentous events – even if one doesn’t know it at the time – and then life subsides again into the
Jan 15, 2017 Pallavi rated it it was ok
This book just didn't work for me. I don't know what it was, but somehow I could not establish a connection with any of the characters Desai created here. I felt that the characters did have potential and that they would grow as I read further but they didn't and neither did the story. It just meandered aimlessly in a boring narrative right up till the end. To be honest, her constantly creating a picture (throughout the book) of oppressive summer days in that house also got to me. After all, ove ...more
Nov 26, 2016 Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a richly evocative story, about grown-up siblings who get back together after being apart for many years, and continue to explore the mystery of how our current identities are shaped by our childhood.
Sep 24, 2013 Librarykvpattom rated it really liked it
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
Jun 11, 2014 Patty rated it liked it
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
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
Feb 02, 2016 Pip rated it liked it
3.5 stars
This is the story of a family in Old Delhi, the way the childhood experiences of the four siblings in the Das family influence their subsequent stories, told as the younger sister returns for a visit before attending a family wedding in Hyderabad. The description of the old family home is exquisite, the reader can smell the flowers, hear the birds, experience the heat. There are four chapters: the first in the undisclosed present, probably in the sixties, the second in the tumultuous y
Mar 17, 2015 Baylee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 autosufficiente, Raja è diventato ricco
Abeer Saleh
نشرت الرواية لأول مرة في بريطانيا عام 1980,وحصلت على جائزة "مان بوكر"، أو ما عرفت سابقاً باسم "بوكر ماكونيل" في نفس العام.

تتحدث الرواية عن إعادة ذكريات الطفولة لشقيقتين, إحداهما تعود للوطن بعد أن عاشت خارجه كزوجة دبلوماسي, و الأخرى التي آثرت البقاء في بلدها, لترعى ماتبقى من عائلتها ومنزلهم الصغير, ويظهر التباين واضحًا بين كل منهما من بداية الصفحات.

تبرز الكاتبة من خلال روايتها الصورة الحقيقية لشبه القارة الهندية في فترة حرجة من تاريخها, تلك الفترة التي سبقت انقسامها إلى دولتين: الهند وباكستان, وا
Dec 28, 2015 Penny rated it really liked it
This author is an accomplished writer and this story of India drifts along under a white-hot sky as she reveals the pasts of the main characters and how the events shaped their lives. Some thoughts we have all had, through the voice of Bim:
"Isn't it strange how life won't flow, like a river, but moves in jumps, as if it were held back by locks that are opened now and then to let it jump forwards in a kind of flood? There are these long still stretches - nothing happens - each day is exactly like
Oct 03, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it
I like it when a book enriches my life by bringing me to another time and place and this one certainly did that. It is essentially a family story about sibling relationships which are pretty frustrating and sad. Yet it is about resilience and forgiveness too.

After reading I decided I needed to know more about the time of Partition in India. Researching it with Wikipedia was confusing but an article in The New Yorker just this year was very helpful. Now I need to re-read A Passage to India and G
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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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“The room rang with her voice, then with silence. In the shaded darkness, silence had the quality of a looming dragon. It seemed to roar and the roar to reverberate, to dominate. To escape from it would require a burst of recklessness, even cruelty.” 0 likes
“It seemed to her that the dullness and the boredom of her childhood, her youth, were stored here in the room under the worn dusty red rugs, in the bloated brassware, amongst the dried grasses in the swollen vases, behind the yellowed photographs in the oval frames-everything, everything that she had so hated as a child and that was still preserved here as if this were the storeroom of some dull, uninviting provincial museum.” 0 likes
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