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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,820 ratings  ·  178 reviews
‘Here, day and night were interchangeable. The immaculately dressed Chowringhee, radiant in her youth, had just stepped on to the floor at the nightclub.’ Set in 1950s Calcutta, Chowringhee is a sprawling saga of the intimate lives of managers, employees and guests at one of Calcutta’s largest hotels, the Shahjahan. Shankar, the newest recruit, recounts the stories of seve ...more
Paperback, 403 pages
Published January 2nd 2007 by Penguin Global (first published June 1962)
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Sanjukta Banerjee Absolutely not. Namesake belongs to a completely different genre.

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  1,820 ratings  ·  178 reviews

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It's hardly a comedy, the main character is a tragic figure indeed, but that's what it purports to be. It's sad and sweet and a gentle look at life for those who live right on the edge of extreme poverty one minute and doing pretty ok working in a fancy hotel the next.

Quite good, especially from the point of view of looking at another culture vastly different from my own experiences. I always enjoy Indian writing. Something about their use of English is both charming and erudite.

Three and a ha
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who want to know about the charming forgotten tales about Calcutta
Recommended to Dyuti by: Soorma Das
Has it ever happened to you that you, that you've got so used to something in your life that you wrongly assumed that you knew all its secrets, and there was nothing further to be explained? And then, one day found yourself face to face with an event which showed you how foolish you were to believe so? An event, which showed you that familiarity with an object or person does not necessarily mean the end of things to be discovered about each other, or new qualities to fall in love with again...

As a fan of Indian fiction, while not a huge reader of fiction in general, I did enjoy this book. At the time I started reading I didn't know it was written in 1962, which is even more of a testament to the timelessness of the writing. I would not have been surprised to find it was relatively contemporary.

I generally avoid plot outlines in fiction reviews, but I am not sure how I would summarise it anyway, other than perhaps the retelling of a short period of time in the main characters life, wh
Smitha Murthy
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Smitha by: Swati
Shelves: india, friendship, fiction
This was the second book I read this year that was set in a hotel. Unlike Amor Towles, Sankar had me a bit more interested in the fishbowl but all-encompassing world of a hotel.

Bit by bit, Sankar uses each of the characters in ‘Chowringhee’ to express his views on life and humankind. It becomes depressing and melancholic toward the end, but not in a bad way. It’s just a life way.

I didn’t like this as much as ‘The Middleman,’ and I took unusually long to finish it. But this is a lovely look at
Megha Chakraborty
My father recommended this book to me, he said you got to read Chowringhee once, it's very rare for him to suggest to me some book, and I had to thank him, this is a masterpiece. The narrator, Shankar, is an ambitious young man who finds himself out of a job with an English barrister and is barely surviving by selling wastepaper baskets door to door. As he sits in a neighborhood park, a detective friend Byron passes by, who is shocked by Shankar's descent into poverty. He tells Shankar that he c ...more
Guchu Nathani
Oct 09, 2011 rated it liked it
A nice read, a light book which one can read at his own pace. It is interesting but then it does not bind you so that you have to finish it in 2 sittings(as it happens to me sometimes). The stories which constitute the book are independent and yet bound together by a few central characters like Shankar(the narrator), Sata Bose(Receptionist), Marco Polo(Manager) and of course Byron(detective)who comes in for small parts but bents the story every time he appears. It is a kind of book which one sho ...more
Teenu Vijayan
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Chowringhee is a simple story where you start the book. Slowly it picks up pace and you star living in the Calcutta of 1950s through the central character Shankar.
Shankar finds a temporary job in the majestic hotel- Shahjahan. True to the name, Shahjahan is the hub of everything in vogue to the city. Inanimate it may be, but the life that is breathed into it through the music, people and the swaying underbelly of the mysterious Calcutta in all its glory.It's a keeper of secrets, whisperer of ta
Apr 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was originally written in 1962, and is one of the most popular novels of 20th century Bengali literature. A movie of the same title was equally popular and well received. Chowringhee was not published in English until 2007, and the translation won two major awards. This edition was published earlier this year in the UK by Atlantic Books.

The setting of this novel is Chowringhee, a neighborhood in Calcutta, in the mid-1950s. The narrator, Shankar, is an ambitious young man who finds him
Erica Mukherjee
Aug 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Chowringhee, by Sankar, is a story about life in a hotel. While reading the book the reader will quickly learn that this book is about life in a hotel and that books about life in a hotel are very interesting. He will then be reminded of this fact throughout the rest of the book.

Beside this one annoyance, Chowringhee is a very enjoyable book. A colourful cast of characters moves in and out of the story just as guests move in and out of a hotel’s revolving door. While it is a novel with a few mai
Fairly good

Chowringhee tells the tale of Shankar and his adventures in Calcutta's greatest hotel, the Shahjahan. It's a colourful tale of intertwined lives of the hotel employees and their guests. Through the eyes of the naive Shankar, we learn the love, losses and adventures of many of these people, as well as the hidden world of beauty but also griminess that exists in an exquisite hotel.

My overall feeling of this book is that it is fairly good, it kept me entertained mostly. However, it is a
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
In a word, this book is lovely. The style is eerily reminiscent of Vikram Seth's Suitable Boy (since no two Seth books read the same). Like Suitable Boy, it is also based in post-war, post-independence India, at a time when Calcutta was plagued by poverty, Zamindari affluence as well as the incumbent Marwari businessmen. It is the story of barmen, cabaret dancers, struggling private detectives, filmstars, industrialists, hostesses, struggling musicians, laundry men and anyone, who in any capacit ...more
Swati Garg
Sep 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My best read of 2014. The only reason i picked it up at the bookstore because after looking at the books for an hour i didn't want to return empty handed and avoid the salesman's accusatory glances.

Set in Shahjahan Hotel in Calcutta, it is about human emotions and the world through a receptionist's eyes. And the beauty of the book lies in the fact that the narrator makes you fall in love with characters irrespective of his hate or love for them. Set in 1962, most of the observations the author
If one were to ask what the Great Calcutta Novel would be like, Sankar's classic "Chowringhee" would definitely come to mind. An ode to the City of Joy & the people who live in it, this book is symbolic of a time seemingly long lost, but Sankar's acute observations on human nature stand true even fifty years since it was first published.

One of the best books I read in 2012 was ‘Chowringhee’ by the Bengali writer Sankar. This is a book which ought to be internationally famous and widely praised but stands only in 379,233rd position on the Amazon Bestsellers Rank. Undoubtedly in its native India, the book is much better known but as a Brit, only an obsessive collector of books set in India (like me) is likely to have heard of it. This was on my Amazon wishlist for over a year and I was so keen to get it that I accidentally bought ...more
Nov 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Chowringhee is set in Calcutta's Shahjahan Hotel. Seen from the eyes of a young receptionist, we explore a myriad of stories about those living and working there. From the Italian manager to the Scottish dancer, the band master from Goa who burns for the works of European classical composers, to the beautiful hostess who dares to fall in love with one of her clients... there is a rich vein of stories to tell.

It wasn't until after I'd started Chowringhee that I discovered that it'd been written i
Girija (thesacredwhispers)
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'Here, day and night were interchangeable. The immaculately dressed Chowringhee, radiant in her youth, had just stepped on to the floor at the nightclub.’

Chowringhee originally written in Bengali by Sankar in 1962 and translated by Arunava Sinha takes you to the roads, lanes and the people of Calcutta in the post independence period of 1950s.

The narrator Shankar has lost his job with an English Barrister and is now barely surviving by selling waste paperbaskets. It's on one of such hard days tha
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Chowringhee has all that essential qualities of a lovely, charming novel:
1. Capacity to escape time - Check
2. Cant keep down the book yet you want to read slow - Check
3. Spellbinding characters spinning a banquet of stories - Check
4. Relatable, despite being written over 40 years ago - Check
5. Simple yet Moving - Check

Scholars say, the psychology of reading for pleasure, is a bit like play-acting, allowing us to experience other worlds and roles in our imagination ; A reason why Chowringhee-wi
Mar 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: india
For a week I lived in the 'Shahjahan' Hotel; I dwelt in the 60's Calcutta-chic, suave, vivid, a confluence of culture, people and traditions; I met people, was privy to the deep dark secrets of the influential, submerged myself into the gaiety and fervour the City of Joy had in store. I do feel strangely misplaced back in 2013!

'Chowringhee' (immensely hard to pronounce) is a delightfully interesting book and is best described as a collection of individual stories sewn together. As a receptionis
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would name this book "Hotel Shahjahan" if i were Sankar.

'As I was saying, when i got the job, the advertisement they had put in the papers implied that they wanted someone who knew English like Shakespeare, Bengali like Tagore, and Hindi like Tulsidas - salary:seventy-five rupees. And in response they got me. I had all the qualifications, but a little mixed up-English like Tulsidas's, Bengali like Shakespeare's and Hindi like Tagore's. But does that mean t
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india, coming-of-age
A beautiful story, which depicts a slice of life and a coming of age for its young narrator. I would have loved to read it in the original language because at times I felt English was not enough to convey the emotional depth of relationships presented here.
Stories of people adrift in a hotel is a great theme, and Shankar picks the right snippets to show us. Some of them are quite dark, but perhaps it’s because the dark ones are likely to leave the most impressions on a young receptionist’s mind
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
hmmm....romantic premise. Poor young man in calcutta lands a job in an upscale hotel. Nice story about friendships, life with lots of interesting characters but I found it a little flat.
Uttara Srinivasan
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A glittering world of fleeting interactions, of temporary residence and decadence and providence, welcome to Shahjahan. The guests may leave in four days or a fortnight but there are those who stay and lend their minds bodies and souls to the intricate machinery that is never a home but a abode away from it.

A scintillating cabaret dancer and her mysterious companion, a worldly wise and ever so popular receptionist and mentor, a Beethoven fan and enamoured maker of music, a hostess with a heart o
Gorab Jain
Jan 21, 2020 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: indian, 2020
DNF at 25%
Couldn't strike a connection with plot or prose, or any of the characters.
Too many interlinked stories, which didn't appear interesting. And it keeps on swirling in more stories and characters. Which didn't work good with me.
Debolina Mukherjee
May 10, 2015 rated it liked it

What happens when a “wide eyed adolescent from the small neighborhood of Kashundia who had, years ago, crossed the Ganga on the steamer Amba from Ramkeshtopur Ghat to gape at the High Court” secures a job with a British barrister and earns the affection of one and all only to be reduced to a life of penury when the barrister expires? Well, he ends up behind the reception desk of one of the most revered hotels of colonial Calcutta, the Shahjahan. And throug
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Laura, Carey, Wanda, Overbylass
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Em*bedded-in-books* by: Indian Readers group reads
It was a satisfying read. I had my doubts in the initial few pages, but then got involved in the lives of the people working at 'Hotel Shah Jahan', probably a five star hotel in Calcutta. It was an intriguing view of the functioning of a large hotel and the lot of the employees working in such a huge establishment. The descriptions and events were too real to consider the novel as a piece of fiction. The protagonist and his friends were a simple group of people who cared for each other as well a ...more
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer:(May be I am Biased being a Calcuttan)
This book was an eye opener about Calcutta of the early 60s ...Its an awesomely seamless translation doing justice to the original one written in Bengali... light as a feather swaying in gentle wind :) one is hardly aware of time passing and pages turning..devouring each line..getting into the feel of the kaleidoscope of feelings and emotions of each character so poignantly portrayed one is transposed in another era.. as if witness
Ruth Soz
Jan 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I'm always a bit hesitant to read translated novels because I worry about missing nuances that just can't be translated into English. However, it became clear very early on that it wasn't going to be a problem with this one. The writing was beautifully done and had me entranced from the beginning (that probably says something about the translator as much as the author). I just wish I could have stayed as entranced in reading further on. The ending also left me unsatisfied. But I did like the col ...more
Sakib Haque
Oct 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
By taking an ill-fated boy from his highs of life to low and then suddenly showing the light of hope, the writer takes us into a different world. A world where we have occasionally just stepped in, passed a few moments but never given a thought of how complex and diverse this world is, how this world consumes another world - peoples' lives into it; its called hotel. An amazing portrayal of the faces of people, seen and unseen; incidents that will make you wonder of authenticity and trust sometim ...more
Glenna Barlow
Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it
a nice insight into life during what i suspect was the golden age of calcutta. at least for this particular hotel. the stories were interesting but the narrator seemed unrealistically naive and tended to harp too much on nostalgia, almost bordering on the repetitive. a nice read, but some of it could have been cut down.
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Shankar's real name is Mani Shankar Mukherjee. Sankar is a very popular writer in the Bengali language. He grew up in Howrah district of West Bengal, India.
Shankar's father died while Shankar was still a teenager, as a result of which Shankar became a clerk to the last British barrister of the Calcutta High Court, Noel Frederick Barwell. The experience of working under Mr. Barwell provided the mat

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