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Haunting Bombay

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  441 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews

After her mother’s death crossing the border from Pakistan to India during Partition, baby Pinky was taken in by her grandmother, Maji, the matriarch of the powerful Mittal family. Now thirteen years old, Pinky lives with her grandmother and her uncle’s family in a bungalow on the Malabar Heights in Bombay. While she has never really been accepted by her uncle’s family, sh

Hardcover, 362 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Soho Press
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A Fine Balance by Rohinton MistrySwimming Lessons and Other Stories from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton MistryBombay Bhel by Ken  DoyleMaximum City by Suketu MehtaShantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Best Mumbai/Bombay Stories
23rd out of 36 books — 60 voters
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisBurmese Days by George OrwellLove and Longing in Bombay by Vikram ChandraThe Persian Boy by Mary RenaultMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Cat Breeds - Titles
38th out of 71 books — 11 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,900)
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Dec 21, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, novels
If I were to speak of this book in one word it would be "stunning" which is a word so overused in reviews that it almost means nothing but I mean it literally. At the end, I was absolutely stunned and it took awhile to recover from the final twist.

I am also overwhelmed by its complexity, which makes it a challenge for me to review. In the tradition of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, she writes a novel that questions, critiques and gives loving homage to the survivors, the marginalized, the lost
Feb 19, 2013 Zen rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
Haunting Bombay really wasn't for me. At its best, it was an engaging ghost story filled with Indian tradition and folklore, and lots of intriguing history. It begins with a woman seeking revenge, continues with a girl seeking answers, and culminates in a series of supernatural phenomena that affect the entire Mittal family and those around them.

What dragged this book down for me was that I constantly felt like I was watching one of the supernatural Hindi dramas my grandparents are addicted to,
Nov 25, 2015 Dree rated it really liked it
Excellent book with fabulous descriptions of life in 1960s Bombay (India). This book follows the lives of the Mittal family and their servants--largely their present, but with very important insights into their pasts. And woven in is a ghost (spirit) story. I found the descriptions of the lives of women in various stages of their lives/from various walks of life to be fascinating (girl, young unmarried woman, young married woman, married woman, widow, married servant, unmarried servant) to be fa ...more
Aug 07, 2010 Kalyn rated it liked it
I wasn't as astounded by this book as some of the cover blurbs were, but I did enjoy it. The ghost story was not as central as I expected, but the stories of the other characters were more interesting anyway. The book's best moments are those where it explores themes common to all times and places - children rebelling against parents, young love, revenge, shame, acceptance, and seeking love. The descriptions are well done. I could nearly feel the oppressive heat and then the pouring rain of the ...more
Nov 15, 2010 Jodi rated it liked it
Shelves: india
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. It's very well written. I don't normally go in for anything paranormal but this book is different. It shows the some of the superstitions in Indian culture about spirits and ghosts.
About a quarter of the way in the book had me hooked and I couldn’t put it down.
What I enjoy about Indian English literature is that most novels don’t wrap things up in a cute little, happy every after, bow in the end. The good ones always stay with me a while and have me
Vonn New
Sep 17, 2012 Vonn New rated it liked it
Once in a while, I will walk through the library and just pick up a book because I like the cover. That's how I brought home Haunting Bombay. I don't generally like ghost stories, but I often am intrigued by English language literature written by Indian authors. The writing was quite good and the descriptions of life in Bombay were brought to life by the colors, flavors, and monsoon that are almost like characters in this book. I did not find the ending as surprising or shocking as many other re ...more
Jul 04, 2009 AK rated it it was ok
I was intrigued by this book mostly because of all my travels in Mumbai. It was nice understanding all the Indian references and being familiar with the locations. That being said, I think that if it took place anywhere else it would have been kind of boring. The story was interesting but never truly compelling. The characters were interesting, but for the most part, 2 dimensional.
Oct 09, 2009 Wendy rated it really liked it
Ghosts are like secrets. You may not always be able to see them, but they linger, always present, always influencing those around them. Shilpa Agarwal's novel, Haunting Bombay, tells the story of the Mittal family, three generations living under the same roof. Secrets cannot be hidden forever. And the dark family secret in the Mittal household would soon be let loose by the unbolting of a door by an innocent girl.

Pinky is thirteen years old. The year is 1960. She never knew her mother, a refugee
Oct 23, 2011 Aspasia rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
This story had a confusing prologue and was slow to get started, but after the first few chapters the story sucked me in. Pinky Mittal has been raised by her grandmother since she was an infant. She lives with her grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins in an old English bungalow in Bombay during the 1960s. Superstition haunts (pardon the pun) this affluent family: the bathroom door is bolted every night and the children are forbidden to ask why. As Pinky nears the beginning of puberty she starts ...more
Housewife Bubuchu
Apr 06, 2015 Housewife Bubuchu rated it really liked it
Эта книга Двуликий Янус. Первая половина это красочное и вкусное описание жизни зажиточной индийской семьи со всеми бытовыми подробностями и мелкими семейными дрязгами.
Вторая же - это ураган судьбы, обрушившийся на героев, и едва не погубивший их навсегда.
Отличие первой половины книги от второй разительное. Ты совершенно не ждешь подобного, убаюканный любовно выписанными деталями, сочными красками и экзотическими ароматами той волшебной Индии, которая манит нас с рекламных проспектов.
Сначала ром
Feb 08, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction, asia
Pinky was saved as a child and acted as a replacement for a Mittal daughter. In a house filled with family, religion and superstition, Pinky finds herself opening something in the bathroom that she shouldn't have and letting out a ghost that wreaks havoc on the Mittal family. The ghost is out for revenge and in the process many secrets come to light about Pinky's adoptive family. Will it haunt them forever or is there a way to give the ghost some peace?

I really liked this book. I have only read
Jun 18, 2009 Judy rated it it was ok
I guess I was expecting something else - a scary ghost story with lots of suspense. This was more about a dysfunctional family in India and their dysfunctional neighbors, with a ghost thrown in that wasn't particularly scary. Again, this shows how a publisher tries to market a book for a mass audience by giving you a different impression just so you'll crack open the book.
Sep 30, 2015 Mehreen rated it it was ok
It had such a promising premise but the book didn't really deliver. I'm Pakistani and I feel like anyone without a south Asian background would have difficulty with this book. It started out great with a prologue filled with intrigue and witchcraft and black magic. Pinky and Nimish and Lovely have a lovely story (although naming a character Lovely is quite confusing)

The book was lacking in that you pretty much hated all the characters, there was a lot of unnecessary description that slowed down
Jan 05, 2010 Trudi rated it liked it
Not a favorite of mine. Although I always enjoy reading about India, the emphasis in this book on ghosts put me off. Although it has interesting characters and setting, I didn't like the ghost aspect.
Debbie Lambert
Dec 17, 2015 Debbie Lambert rated it liked it
Story regarding a well-to-do Indian family who all live in the same house together. There is a ghost of a baby in the bathroom where it was drowned as an infant. Maji, the grandma, killed the baby because it was half male/female which is not accepted in their culture. A maid is blamed for the death and she is exiled and kills herself. The baby and the maid are vengeful. The entire family is delightful along with the chauffer, cook, and new maids. Their stories intertwine. I didn’t like it at fir ...more
Aug 31, 2015 Em rated it really liked it
The title of this book is a drawback because it is much more than a tale of a ghost. The book is about a well-to-do traditional Hindu household in Bombay dealing with a presence and situations that begin to unravel their daily life. In the story the author takes the reader into terrain which is unfamiliar even to many Mumbaikars -- the fishing village, the red-light area, etc. Virtually every person described in the novel is a rounded character and as I got into the book the sense of mystery dee ...more
Oct 08, 2009 Serena rated it it was amazing
Shilpa Agarwal's Haunting Bombay immerses readers in a deeply saturated drama and literary ghost story reminiscent of the Bollywood films the Mittal family's driver Gulu adapts into his own adventures. Set in Bombay, India, the story spans two decades from the end of World War II into the 1960s.

Each member of the Mittal family is vivid from the main protagonist Pinky, a thirteen-year-old girl uncomfortable with her place in the family and grandmother Maji, who keeps the family unit running smoot
May 20, 2012 Lauren rated it liked it
This book engaged me, but it also drove me batty. In 1960 Bombay, thirteen-year-old Pinky Mittal unlocks a forbidden room in her family’s home, unleashing a ghost and forcing her family to face events that occurred thirteen years before. Descriptions weigh down the narrative, going well beyond what is needed to describe life in Bombay to a Western audience. It’s so detailed that it seems almost patronizing, and several times I found myself thinking, ‘Yes, I get it, it’s a different culture, now ...more
Nov 17, 2011 Lily rated it it was amazing
Tengo que reconocer que nada más ver el título, la portada y el argumento de La casa de los aromas sagrados yo ya estaba medio prendada de la novela, y es que India siempre ha sido un país que me ha fascinado por el misticismo de su cultura y de sus gentes. Y puedo decir tras haberla degustado que ha sido una delicia para los sentidos de la que estoy totalmente enamorada.

La historia principal gira en torno a una mansión de la época de la colonización inglesa en la que ahora vive una familia que
Nancy H
Jun 11, 2014 Nancy H rated it really liked it
I am not usually of fan of ghost stories, but this novel is so much more than that. The culture, characters, and setting of the story just sucked me in and I could not stop reading. There are many layers to this story, and it is interesting to see how things reveal themselves as the story progresses. I was hoping for different things to happen as I neared the end, but it was a very satisfying read nonetheless.
Gabrielle Gaulin
Mar 02, 2014 Gabrielle Gaulin rated it liked it
It had me going for the majority of the book, with layer after layer of secrets being unveiled. However, at the end, I felt disappointed in the lack of climax. The actions of certain characters didn't seem to make much sense. Also overall a very depressing story... Although that should have been clear going in!
Jun 19, 2014 Suzanne rated it liked it
Although her descriptions of post colonial India are fascinating and picturesque, I found the actual ghost story confusing and convoluted. I didnt know any of the characters well enough to be concerned about them. Still, I did enjoy reading this family saga of pride, power and murdur and of course revenge.
Jun 18, 2010 Diane rated it it was amazing
"After her mother’s death crossing the border from Pakistan to India during Partition, baby Pinky was taken in by her grandmother, Maji, the matriarch of the powerful Mittal family. Now thirteen years old, Pinky lives with her grandmother and her uncle’s family in a bungalow on the Malabar Heights in Bombay. While she has never really been accepted by her uncle’s family, she has always had Maji’s love.

One day, as monsoons engulf the city, Pinky opens a mysteriously bolted door, unleashing the gh
Mar 28, 2015 Jamie rated it really liked it
I tend to favor realistic fiction, so it was a huge surprise to me that this book - with its ghost, evil spirit, and trantic shaman - was able to pull me in, but it did! And, powerfully so. I recommend it!
Nov 21, 2013 BetweentheCovers rated it liked it
I picked this book up because it was set in Bombay. The tiny print annoyed me and I was prepared to dislike it. But it sucked me in. Once I got past the first couple of chapters, I was hooked.

An intriguing story of superstition set in a bygone era with well-crafted characters and an interesting narrative style. A very thoroughly researched book. My only criticism is the author seemed determined to shove in every bit of research regardless of whether or not it furthered the story. An example is t
M a y a
Dec 29, 2015 M a y a rated it really liked it
A beautifully written ghost story. The author paints a rich picture of this slice of historical Mumbai, though I still wanted something more from the characters.
Jun 02, 2015 Kookie rated it liked it
The uneven tone made it hard to get through, but the parts that were good were really, really good and the ending made the whole thing worth it.
Oct 26, 2015 Joanne rated it liked it
Not as good as it was tauted to be, unfortunately. It is a ghost story, with not one but two ghosts! It unfortunately suffers from long descriptions of food and eating that are unnecessary to the story and the longer the story goes on, the more annoying these passages become as a means to prolong the ending.
Feb 12, 2014 Prema rated it really liked it
A great supernatural mystery with interesting narrative on India's society as well as spirituality. I defintely wouldn't recommend waiting too long in between reads as there are many details to keep up with in order to follow the story. All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It isn't exactly fast paced, but the backstories of the complex characters which lead to solving the mystery of the ghost kept me flipping the pages.
May 29, 2014 Brenda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: india, great-books
"Haunting" is the correct word to describe this book. I read non stop. This is the third book I've read on India recently. Love'em! The culture of India seeps through each page and envelops you as if you are there. I was in India with all it's traditions, their clothing, foods. etc. I was able to picture how the members of the social stratum existed . The undercurrent of cultural hierarchy from the Grandmother down to the servants is powerful. In the end this hierarchy was something they had to ...more
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Shilpa Agarwal is a Los Angeles-based writer and academic. Born in Mumbai to a family uprooted by India's Independence movement and made refugees by its subsequent Partition, Shilpa's early writings explored how colonialism and the chaos of dislocation shaped human interaction.

As an undergraduate at Duke University, Shilpa specialized in Asian and African literatures and Women's Studies. She pursu
More about Shilpa Agarwal...

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“If only certain things had been preventable, his life would have unfurled in front of him as intended, like a lush Oriental carpet. No surprises, no detours. Just a thick tapestry of days and nights that at the end of his time on earth, he could roll up and proudly claim as his own.” 4 likes
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