The Immortals
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The Immortals

2.92 of 5 stars 2.92  ·  rating details  ·  144 ratings  ·  29 reviews
The award-winning author of A New World now gives us an incantatory novel—at once plaintive and comic—about the powerful undercurrent of cultural and familial tradition in a society enthralled with the future.

Bombay in the 1980s: Shyam Lal is a highly regarded voice teacher, trained by his father in the classical idiom but happily engaged in teaching the more popular songs...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 25th 2009 by Knopf (first published 2009)
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Susan Marshall
I have to say I was disappointed with this book. I wanted to stop reading it, but I never stop reading a book once I have started. I kept thinking there would be a redemption at the end, but there wasn't. I didn't care about the characters. I wanted to care, but I didn't. I can not recommend this. This was the first book I read by this author, not sure I would read another
Patrick Neylan
'The Immortals' seems to have been written for the Booker judging panel, meticulously adopting one of the standard Booker styles: Indian subcontinent coming-of-age family saga (known for short as the Rushdie Template).

Unfortunately it wasn't written for you, dear reader, so I advise you not to read it.

Amazon reviewers are occasionally castigated for 'spoiling': giving away the plot of a book. There is no danger of that here because 'The Immortals' has no plot. Or, if it does have one, it is simp...more
Jeffrey Ogden Thomas
Sorry, I got about 50 pages in... another reviewer calls this book "languid". I agree.
But it would be interesting to those who grew up in India and are familiar with the music-teaching milieu.
A. S.
Being a classically trained Indian musician myself, I thought reading a book about the subject by an actual musician might be right up my alley. And Amit Chaudhuri's The Immortals could have been very compelling if it weren't for a few teensy issues.

The Immortals tries to tackle the guru-student relationship along with complexities of caste, socioeconomics, and education. Some of the characters are more fleshed out than others: Mallika Sengupta and Shyamji are by far the most developed. Nirmalya...more
The Immortals is a tale of two families: one luxuriating in a new world of corporate affluence and the other getting by on the old world of musical tradition. Together, they are joined by a “common, day-to-day pursuit of music.”

Music is the thread that ties this book together, and Amit Chaudhuri knows his stuff. He is, himself, a composer and musician and the meticulous detail and grand amount of exposition is clearly written by a man who has inhabited the world he creates.

This is a populous nov...more
Johnna Sturgeon
I really, really wanted to like this book, having read so many terrific English-language books by South Asian writers. It has many interesting characters. I can't help but feel that Chaudhuri has probably written a biting and witty social satire that I don't have the cultural background to appreciate. But the book seems to just plod onward endlessly as I struggle to keep the large cast of characters straight and understand exactly what the point is. At the end, I still really wasn't too clear if...more
Couldn't get through this one. Read about a third and gave up. It went no where and was very confusing with all the Indian names.
This is the story of the Sengupta family and their relations with each other, friends, work associates, and as well, their relationships with the people who work for the family in the home,
and the teachers who come to provide singing and music lessons.

Not being of the Indian culture, I found the story to reflect the undercurrent of place and status within the society of these characters found similarly in books such as "The Death of Krishna" and
"A Fine Balance". Being an American, much of the...more
Great book! I never knew indian classical music has so much depth and vigor. In the midst of reading this book, I started listening to the classical music mentioned and it helped me understand the author's work better. It's rich, colorful and leaving one to want more.
This feels like the most thorough book by Chaudhuri; it's probably his longest one to date. I really enjoyed his close depiction of the world of music teachers and their bourgeois amateur-students in Bombay of the eighties. Chaudhuri manages to write about class (and caste) interaction without either aestheticized delusion or revolutionary sentimentalism. Young bookish protagonist who will go to study in London (an annoying ethnic cliche, can we for once have books about young plumbers or garden...more
A languid, melancholy book - even sort of depressing - and yet, in my opinion, a fairly accurate portrait of how art and artists survive in a rapidly growing and changing city, in this case music/musicians in India. Not so different from artists in this country, in the daily scramble to keep the art alive while trying to survive in a world bent mostly on business. Very believable characters, but not an easy read because the author uses a great many untranslated words from an unfamiliar (to an Am...more
I really liked the first third of the book. The characters illustrate many of the rungs of society in India. THe relationship between the up-and-coming company man and his family with the musicians' family was wonderful, and Mumbai itself is a character, with the family moving to progressively larger apartments as the city itself gets larger. But I really had to skim the second half. Perhaps if I knew more about Indian music I would have been able to get into it more. I will try some of his shor...more
I bought this for spell and bound recommended it. But I had to wade through it and to my utter disappointment I could not finish it. What was the objective of the story I wonder! It seemed as if the entire fabric of Indian middle standard society was opened up with few threads here and there focussing on the plight of musicians since the days of the Raj till now. I wish the author had kept the focus on musicians and their life more than giving us the psychology of teenagers in india versus the w...more
Carol Jean
This book was a bit difficult for me, as it dealt with levels of Indian society. The story is basically the interweaving of two families in Bombay. One is a family of musicians and music teachers, the other the wife and son of a businessman. Money, music, and ambition, along with social expectations, create a complex if not terribly plotty story of the gradual loss of culturally significant art forms.
This is a complex and beautifully written book, but I lacked the knowledge of music, dance, and pop culture in India that I think I needed to enjoy it. I was also looking for a lighter read, so I didn't think it was fair for me to rate the book. Maybe I'll tackle it again one day when I'm looking for something other than a little escapism.
I started this book a few months ago. Just could not get into if, even after 50 pages. Then put it down and tried again.
I normally love books about Indian written by Indian authors, but this is not for me.
I can not recommend it, sorry.
Neelam Dadhwal
It is a novel set between different generations of singers that see gradual fading of tradition and establishing new borders of musical culture in India as their personal lives intertwined with the legacy they carry with them.
Readers used to fast paced novels with twists and turns may not appreciate this book.
But definitely a good read as far as I am concerned.
Read more about it at
just couldnt make it through. taken me so long to come to terms with the fact that I never will. and its okay. It is a tiring, thankless and dull read. Life is too short.
Written with Chaudhuri's characteristic delicacy and nuance, but because this book is more commodious than his earlier ones, it's also a bit too languorous.
Lyrically written novel about the passing of time. A series of vignettes set in Bombay about several musically inclined families, both teachers and students.
A little too long winded and slow. good lengthy descriptions, but wish it had flown faster and was a 100 pages shorter.
Kartikay Sahay
Interesting nose-dive into the world of guru-shishya, but it lacked the punch in the end.
I couldn't continue reading it. I got to p 23. About a Bombay music teacher.
Dec 22, 2009 Jennifer marked it as to-read
Shelves: fiction
12/22/2009 : Saw this on the NEW shelf at the library today.
I thought this book was tedious and not interesting.
Mar 27, 2012 Amanda added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I gave it almost 50 pages but could not get into it.
Tedious and unsatisfying.
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Amit Chaudhuri on BBC World Book Club 1 2 Apr 25, 2013 04:29AM  
Amit Chaudhuri was born in Calcutta in 1962, and grew up in Bombay. He read English at University College, London, where he took his BA with First Class Honours, and completed his doctorate on critical theory and the poetry of D.H. Lawrence at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was a Dervorguilla Scholar. He was Creative Arts Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford, from 1992-95, and Leverhulme Special R...more
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