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Fire on the Mountain

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  526 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
A classic from one of India's greatest writers with a stunning new cover in water colour.

Gone are the days when Nanda Kaul watched over her family and played the part of Vice-Chancellor's wife. Leaving her children behind in the real world, the busier world, she has chosen to spend her last years alone in the mountains in Kasauli, in a secluded bungalow called Carignano.

Unknown Binding, 145 pages
Published January 1st 1977 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Nanda Kaul is contentedly living out her twilight years in near-isolation in the Indian hillstation of Kasauli, until she receives a letter from her daughter advising that Nanda's great-granddaughter, Raka, is coming to stay. Neither Nanda nor Raka is happy with this state of affairs, but Nanda is the first to thaw. A visit from Nanda's childhood friend, Ila Das, provides some gentle comic relief as well as the set-up for the shocking climax to this story.

Actually, that's about all that happens,
Portia S
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: female-authors
I was enjoying this so much, I was loving this and it made me happy as I read it, and then I reached the ending and I became bitter. That familiar feeling of loathing I held for so long towards ignorance and men rose like bile up my throat. I hate people. I hate men, specifically. I hate the way this book led me up to something happy and then dashed me down into something depressing.

I think I've given away to much there. But what else was I expecting from Desai? She does that, doesn't she, I'm
Akshay Dasgupta
Dec 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Anita Desai is such an underrated writer. Sometimes I feel she wrote her books four to five decades too early to gain the kind of appreciation and recognition that writers receive today. She is one of the very few Indian authors who wrote in the English language in the 60s. Her style of writing, her prose has the ability to carry the reader into a different world all together. In this book the author describes Carignano with such detailed precision (the pine trees, the valley behind the house, t ...more
Desai's prose echoes the quiet setting of this short novel. In the backdrop of mountain terrain and cool breeze, the elderly protagonist unearths deeply rooted emotions from her past when her great-granddaughter arrives. The two women with wealth of time separating them, find themselves to be more alike than initially expected. There is a free spirit in all of us and Desai's writing calls out to that. In that aspect, Desai succeeds in telling a story about women whose ending can be anything but ...more
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The painstakingly created solitude of a Nanda Kaul is suddenly disturbed when her great granddaughter is sent to her for recuperation. Discomfort soon turns to tenderness when the little one proves to be different from assumptions. A simple story but Desai's skill at describing the life in the hills of Kasauli and the sparse descriptions are going to be etched in memory for a long long time!
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Anita Desai so far is one of the very few writers who is able to directly influence my mood through their work. Should you see a tragic end, you too would feel so; if it were a heart-warming end, you too would be smiling. I really felt my mood change at the culmination scene. Such an amazing writer she is! Such a gripping tale this is. If not for anyone else, it was certainly relatable to me.
The opening scene greets us with a postman trekking upwards towards a home in the hilly area of Kasuali.
Pankaj Suneja
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fire on the mountain has simple and detailed story. The plot is that Nanda Kaul chooses to retire from her family life and spend the rest of her life in isolation in Carigano, a secluded bungalow in Kasauli. Ramlal, the cook of the home is the only person who lives in the bungalow along with her. Nanada Kaul is shocked when her great granddaughter, Raka, arrives to stay with her in bungalow. Raka was sent by Asha, daughter of Nanda Kaul and mother of Tara. Raka is suffering from Typhoid and was ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
این کتاب درباره زنی از طبقه متوسط است که روزی نتیجه دختری اش به خاطر بیماری مادرش نزد وی می آید. بخش بیشتر کتاب درباره تلاشهای این جده و نتیجه است برای شناخت یکدیگر به همراه توصیف طبقه فقیر هند و شرح زندگی زنان هندی
تا آنجایی که می دانم تنها سه کتاب از ایشان ترجمه شده است و خیلی خوشحال می شوم اگر سایر کتابهایش هم ترجمه و چاپ شوند.
Drsachinjadhav Jadhav
Starting off with languid, repetitive and monotonous descriptions of pine needles, cicadas and apricots the book becomes unputdownable and startles you with a brisk, insightful climax.
A story of three women who are dissatisfied with what life provides them with how they eventually fall prey to their attempts to revitalize it.
Muhammed Furqan
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
A delightful read but the ending, so tragic.
Roo Torres
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Length ~ A Novella
Perfect for ~ A rainy day with drink of choice
Your mood to match ~ Sombre
Rating ~ 5 vanilla frosted cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles

Why this book caught my eye~
The desire to break free and clear your life of all the clutter, the screechy irritations of the modern age in which we continually find ourselves inexplicably connected with the rest of the world via the internet of things, awaken forbidden wishes within us-more often than we would like- to run away from it all.
Aug 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teresa-favorites
this book is atypical, a rare species (think life aquatic :P). it's about a little girl having to live with her grandma who is very old and crotchety who has no affection for anyone anymore. they live together in near silence. i like this book so much because it's not the sort of thing people typically make you read about: a grandma and a granddaughter. i know it seems common enough but i don't think i've read another novel that delves into this relationship. i guess people don't write about it ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: family, asia
Nanda Kaul retreats to a solitary existence, fed up with society and the world after serving the needs of her extensive family for a lifetime. When her sick great-granddaughter arrives to spend the summer at her place, she is annoyed at first, but soon they develop a bond, and it is actually Nanda Kaul who seeks the company of the child. Later, an old acquaintance comes to visit, disrupting the solitary idyll, and the story comes to a violent ending.

It is a moving and powerful book, presenting a
Dec 31, 2008 rated it liked it
I have to admit that the Desai daughter, Kiran desai touches me and makes me laugh a lot through her creativity and humour, and much more than her mother Anita. Fire on the mountain is about the lonliness and freedom of an aging grandmother who has abandoned all to be on her own and that of her wild grand daughter who had no where else to go. Wonderful writing, literature and descriptions about India of bygone days and today.
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I hadn't really read any Desai (Anita or Kiran) before this one, and I was literally cross with myself for not having read any Desai until now, after I was through this one.

This book is beautiful, in the literal sense. It moves you, it touches you. Every line, every paragraph is so real, so riddled with emotions, you can't help but smile, and be sad with them.

Like I said, this was my first Desai. And it certainly won't be the last.
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Sparsely but descriptively sets the scene. It is a book that lingers long after you finish reading it. A poignant and sympathetic comparison of what is seen on the surface with what occurs underneath the surface in people's lives.
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book. Every word moved me. What a shame she is out of print.
Ben Batchelder
This is a dark, short morality tale. Desai creates a matriarch, Nanda Kaul, who only wants to be left alone. Widowed and free of encumbrances, she lives high up in the Indian mountains, with one servant who rarely ruffles the solitude of Carignano. Then a letter arrives, announcing that she is to receive a prolonged visit. Her great-granddaughter, Raka, is recovering from typhoid and her jet-setting mother, recently separated, is about to be institutionalized in Geneva, so Raka must spend the su ...more
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edited review
I realize my earlier review of the novel was misleading.
Nanda Kaul is my worst nightmare realized in words.

A woman living for family, in servitude all her life. Resentful. Repressed. Isolated. Neglected. No one who actually gives a damn about her. But she lives with stoic pride. Lying to herself that she needs the isolation. Women bending under the male pride. Taught all their life that it is their duty to look after everyone. And now she lives alone on the mountain, lying to hers
Kiran Singh
May 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely tale about three different women with different lives, wishes and thoughts. I really really liked this book.
Read the review in my blog.

This is my first ever Anita Desai book. And I would say, I read this book out of luck. I am on a vacation and didn’t get any books as I had my kindle editions to read. But un-fortunately (or fortunately), I finished reading my kindle books and was without any books to read. I found this book in my sister’s collections and grabbed it.

Though I didn’t felt it was a great book and it has a sad ending, I like Anita Desai’s writing style and the way she was able to give the
Sundarraj Kaushik
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
Based in Kasauli the book revolves around he life of an old lady who is staying away from company as she feels she has endured enough company during her lifetime.
It looks like her life is going to be put in jeopardy due the arrival of her great granddaugther. She is very uncomfortable with the possibility but is in no position to refuse.
The child comes to stay with her. But the child so independent, in fact so aloof, that the old lady feels a little odd. The child is on her own through the day,
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is by far the best I have read of Anita Desai. The author presents the harsh realities of life in a subtle manner. It starts on a depressing tone with delineation of an old lady, now a great grandmother cherishing her solitude in a cold part of the country.It gives her inner peace to be free from the busy demanding role that she has served for most of her life as a wife, mother, grandmother and so on.The solitude as we see in the first two parts of the book is a choice that the character ha ...more
Susan Chow-Dukhan
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nanda Kaul is spending her twilight years living in solitude in a austere mountain home called Carignano, a far cry from her past, presiding as the Vice-Chancellor's wife in a university town, surrounded by children, servants and house guests. Happy in here solitude, she is initially annoyed upon the arrival of her great granddaughter. Raka is an unconventional child, spending her days in solitude, a recluse by nature. Nanda finds herself admiring Raka, as the she feels that the two are similar, ...more
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novella, india
After a lifetime of serving others, Nanda Kaul retreats to a life of solitude in the mountains. Her independence is shattered by the arrival of a great-grand-daughter, a girl who turns out to love solitary explorations even more than her great-granddaughter does.

Not much happens in this very short novel however Desai moved me with the characters she created, with her descriptions of the natural world and the ease with which she moved from dark comedy to tragedy. I know this book will linger on
Saravana Priya
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's a beautifully written novel which made me to traverse along with it. Thinking of a house in hills surrounded by pine trees, Apricots, cicadas made me happy initially. Even the peace at hill gets disturbed by the reality of forest fires. Anita Desai let story reveal itself which speaks about Conflicts between Nanda kaul's inner self and reality, socio and personal issues of three female characters Illa, Raka, Nanda. Climax line of Raka and title of the story has symbolic significance which i ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written post-colonial work. Takes us through the solitary life of Nanda Kaul, her hesitant relationship with her grand daughter and the discovery of similarities in character. The novel explores the role and lives of women in post-colonial India, dealing with the reclusive nature of Nanda Kaul which was a result of vengeance of a dutiful life in her past and the contrasting reclusive nature of Raka, her grand-daughter. The novel is masterful story-telling set in the quaint hills of ...more
Apr 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Presents a pointedly unsentimental look at mothering, and the yearning for solitude and independence that coexist with the institution. Nanda Kaul has retreated after, she thinks, completing her filial obligations. Unexpectedly, her daughter sends her great grandaughter to live with her. The child that finally infects her reflects her own way of being in the world. She resists Kaul's sudden, awkward attempts at companionship and stilted affection. Meanwhile an old friend brings an unwelcome huma ...more
Luffina Lourduraj
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fire on the Mountain by Anita Desai makes the reader enter into the female world. Nanda Kaul who lost her husband wants to have a secluded life, her only conversation is with her close and dear friend Ila Das. Her peaceful life is interrupted with the arrival of Raka. Nada Kaul who wanted solitude ends up craving for love and attention from her granddaughter.when these two women who have similar traits get close, fate separates them.The novel has a devastating end that haunts the reader's mind w ...more
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fire on the mountain 1 12 Nov 17, 2011 01:29AM  
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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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“At first she mistook them for sheets of pink crepe paper that someone had crumpled and carelessly flung down the hillside, perhaps after another astonishing party at the club. A moment later she remembered her great-grandmother's words and saw that they were hosts of wild pink zephyranthes that had come up in the night after the first fall of rain.” 3 likes
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