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The Shadow Lines

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  5,167 Ratings  ·  304 Reviews

Opening in Calcutta in the 1960s, Ghosh’s radiant second novel follows two families-one English, one Bengali-as their lives intertwine in tragic and comic ways. The narrator, Indian-born and English educated, traces events back and forth in time, through years of Bengali partition and violence, observing the ways in which political events invade private lives. The Shadow L

Paperback, Educational Edition, 310 pages
Published January 1st 2005 by Oxford University Press (first published 1988)
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Riku Sayuj
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The return of this asymmetrical Saturday was one of those little events, internal, local, almost civic, which, in peaceful lives and closed societies, create a sort of national bond and become the favorite theme of conversations, jokes, stories wantonly exaggerated: it would have been the ready-made nucleus for a cycle of legends, if one of us had had an epic turn of mind.

~ Marcel Proust

The Shadow Lines of History (& Geography)

It is said that childhood is the font of all stories. No stor
Sam Law
Dec 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an amazing book that left me blown away by the beautiful vivid storytelling, the insightful analytical commentary and the thought provoking message of the book.

The book collapses time and space, placing events from different times and places next to each other. The narrator goes from his experience as a little boy in India to London both through the stories of his uncle and his own experience there as a student. From this narrative structure emerges a powerful message.

For Ghosh, the wo
Amitav Ghosh is one of my favourite authors, so it was really interesting for me to see how different this early novel is, to the later ones of his I have read. The writing is as sublime as I've come to expect, but where The Shadow Lines is quite unique is in the way the story is told. This is in fact a story about telling stories, written in the style of a series of stories from the point of view of the story-teller. Confusing? Yes, but kind of brilliant. It was almost accordian-like at times ( ...more
Regina Lindsey
The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh
4 Stars

On its surface, Shady Lines is about two families – one English and one Bengali – whose lives have been intertwined for three generations. The unnamed narrator, Indian born and English educated, has grown up with the stories of his uncle, Tridib. It is through these seemingly unrelated stories that the larger picture slowly unfold until, eventually, you realize that they are all culminating in a single, tragic event that impacts both families.

Ultimately, th
Aswathi Raviendran

There are some books that are difficult to review. Their pages open up to spill a mixed bag of emotions and self-contained little worlds onto your lap. As the pages whirl by, boundaries blur. And the worlds, with their bags of emotions, seep into your veins, absorbed into the sponge of your sub-conscious.
That's when you realize the book is now a part of you - that there was something so compatible between your mind, your feelings and the book that there are no separate entities now.
And you bec
I think this is the perfect book. It isn't a novel. It is something beyond what words can comprehend. Our lives are made up of memories. Maybe proper, maybe improper. This is a live example of that. The strange yet a unique and beautiful way of narration makes the story much more intriguing. It literally goes beyond time and space to build an exquisite stockpile of emotions. A person doesn't read this book, he feels it. There have been very few books in which I didn't skim through some parts whi ...more
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about people and places and the connections between them. For me, the most poignant parts of the book are the times when the narrator contemplates the meaning of maps and borders, or the difficulty of rendering meaning to violence with language. There are love stories in the book, and sex, and politics. A moving read, if not a happy one.

This is a book that you will want to read in one sitting. I didn't, but I wish that I had. The book follows the memories of the narrator, and like
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Amitav Ghosh. This was so moving and heartbreaking. The pathos in Indian fiction kills me but I love it anyway.

Review soon.
This book was recommended to me by a friend who had simply loved it. She claimed the book to be one that was meant to be read several times, with each reading rendering a deeper understanding and probably a different interpretation. I was naturally curious and wanted to see what she meant by that statement. With that in mind, I promised to read it with her and discuss it. Of course, I was really lazy and never got around to reading it, until today.

As I sit to review this book, the first thought
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I'm having a hard time figuring out what to say about this. The description and some of the reviews say this is, on the surface, a story of two families - one Indian, one English. I found it only the story of the Indian family who happened to know the white English family and who occasionally spent time with one or other of them. By that I mean that the Indian family sometimes interacted just with themselves, but the white family members interacted only with the Indian family members, rather tha ...more
Last night I was watching an episode of Lost, and as usual with this TV series, I was confused about what was going on. Is this the past? the future? reality or a flashback? And all of a sudden I realized that I have the same muddled confusion over this book. The story is about a Bengali boy and follows his life from a child in Calcutta, through a college education in England and returning home to India. It is definitely set in a turbulent time period, from post World War II, through the India/P ...more
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of South Asian history, people who like to read about travel
Recommended to Rose by: college prof.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Shadow Lines is one of Ghosh's earlier books, which speaks of the early brilliance of this author. At the start, the reader is drawn into what appears to be a family history, but the history quickly becomes disjointed and erratic, the time of telling jumping decades ahead, turning the corner into a new story, spinning back, a chapter ending before it has begun! But if you persist, you become aware of a rhythm, a poetic telling of a tale from the past, the present and the future (you are some ...more

I really wanted to like this book. There are some great observations from a child's point of view. There are also some real sentiments from the elderly grandmother teacher. But...
I easily put this book down to watch tv, talk to my cat, tweeze my eye brows or anything else. The narrator /main character tells his story in a haphazard fashion, not stream of consciousness. Either I couldn't follow him or I didn't care enough to try.
I thought it would be nice to read about a middle class Indian for
Mar 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Chrissie
I must agree with Sandybanks review, the plot is quite confusing and the only engrossing character is the grand-mother who plays the main role in this narrative.
I don't exactly understand what was it that I loved about this book. It's so simple yet lyrical, muffled but engaging - from first page to last it's just absolutely lovely.

It reads like a collection of snapshots from different time frames pieced together which transcends space, time, identity, culture and distance through its fluid narration. It was a journey through the unnamed narrator's mind who isn't trying to get to a truth but in that process reveals the greatest one - that there is no tr
Ellen Pierson
this book wasn't bad, it was just that to me it read more like a draft than a finished novel. amitav ghosh is clearly a gifted writer and the book read beautifully at times, but his narrative voice and the presentation of themes could have been stronger. the expanse of time and distance within the brief novel would have been manageable if it had been handled a little bit more adeptly, but often the year and location of the action would change rather abruptly leaving you confused for a few pages ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another book which I think ought to be made mandatory reading at the school level, especially now when so many seem to think that nationalism and nationality are black and white ideas, too rigid to accommodate blurred lines or gray areas. As an added bonus, we might finally teach students from a fairly early stage to see how history is always an act of selective forgetting and that how importance is given to events in history is largely determined by who is retelling history and to whom. Per ...more
Grace Tjan
Amitav Ghosh's second novel is as beautifully written as his other novels, but the narrative, especially in the first part, somehow lacks cohesiveness. It reads more like the disjointed memoir of a precocious Calcutta schoolboy than a finished novel, endlessly flipping between different eras, sometimes disorientingly so. The grandmother is the most realized character in the novel, the only character who has seen it all, and whose presence holds together the different narratives. The book ends wi ...more
Ritabrata Chatterjee
In my opinion the story didn't interest me, the storytelling did. The style was quite experimental to move back and forth in space and time. But otherwise the base story was in a way predictable and neither interesting nor enlightening.
Ipshita Sengupta
Okay so officially this IS my favorite novel. The non-linear story telling, managing the obscure yet precise sequence of time and memory is fantastic.
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Shadow Line is the second novel by Indian author, Amitav Ghosh. It is set in Calcutta, London and Dhaka, and tells the story of a Bengali and an English family and their involvement over some eighty years. Told as seen through the eyes of the narrator, whose name we never learn (perhaps this says something of his place in the story: to observe), the story opens in 1960 when he is just eight years old, and traces events that impacted on the family from the start of World War II to the late 19 ...more
What should I say, The Shadow lines is a healthy sort of a book, like it has a healthy theme, good English, good sentences, good flow of story, mixing & merging of events, perfectly decent characters happily meeting & parting with each other and their intricate relationships smoothly knit. It gives you a first party narration but with a third party perspective of a neutral observer who lets the events unfold being part of them but not influencing them. The author goes deep enough in the ...more
Katie Grainger
I had really mixed feelings about The Shadow Lines. On the one hand it is a brilliantly written novel, which interweaves a number of stories and characters effortlessly. On the other hand I found the latter half of the novel really hard finish. I think the reason I found the second half of the novel so difficult was that for the first half I had been anticipating that something big was round the corner and was bound to happen and any minute and it never did. As I continued the realisation hit me ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first book by Ghosh, despite The Glass Palace being on my wish list for years. I found the jumping back and forth (coming and going) intriguing. Sometimes the circumstances under which a book is read really affect the way one thinks about it. I read this quickly, over Christmas, in a couple of days, so the characters were fresh in my mind when I returned to it each time. It is set roughly at the same time and place as A Suitable Boy, so it was an interesting contrast in style. The the ...more
Ivy Samuel
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As usual a huge swell of nostalgia sweeps over me when I read Amitav Ghosh and threatens to drown me. Through his books I walk through the streets of Calcutta, the city of my birth. His delicate strokes of color paint such beautiful portraits of personality and disposition that I want to shout, "I know her!" How did you describe her foibles, her oddities so precisely. The story takes place in London and Calcutta at a time just before I was born, and describes events I've heard my parents talk ab ...more
Aug 12, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't really get this book. Set on different time levels, in Calcutta and London, it speaks of two families, one Indian and one English. The narrator, a boy belonging to the Indian family, tells the readers about his childhood in Calcutta, his grandmother and her family, Partition, his cousin Ila, with whom he is secretly in love, his university days in London and so on. Some descriptions were quite good, but on the whole I couldn't really grasp any focus or meaning in this novel. And I could ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-readings
In terms of novels about the migration of Bengali families, I still think Lahiri's work is superior to this. That said, this was a fairly quick but engaging read with good character development of both the Bengali and British family members. There's also a lot of good observations about borders and migration in general in here; discussions of inhabiting space, the arbitrariness and fluidity of borders, place of birth vs. nationality, and the relationships of people outside and independent of gov ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. It started off a little slow, but I think that was necessary so we could fully grasp the relationships between all the characters and their various roles in the narrator's life through time. By the middle, I knew nothing was going to make me put this down until I was done.
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think I was capable of disliking anything written by Amitav Ghosh, until I read this book. While it does have its elements of perceptive and thought provoking brilliance, on the whole, it has left me completely underwhelmed.
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Amitav Ghosh is one of India's best-known writers. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, The Hungry Tide. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexan
More about Amitav Ghosh...

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“[T]hat state, love, is so utterly alien to that other idea without which we cannot live as human beings --- the idea of justice. It is only because love is so profoundly the enemy of justice that our minds, shrinking in horor from its true nature, try to tame it by uniting it with its opposite [...] in the hope that if we apply all the metaphors of normality, that if we heap them high enough, we shall, in the end, be able to approximate that state metaphorically.” 39 likes
“There is something strikingly different about the quality of photographs of that time. It has nothing to do with age or colour, or the feel of paper. . . . In modern family photographs the camera pretends to circulate like a friend, clicking its shutters at those moments when its subjects have disarranged themselves to present to it those postures which they would like to think of as informal. But in pictures of that time, the camera is still a public and alien eye, faced with which people feel bound either to challenge the intrusion by striking postures of defiant hilarity, or else to compose their faces, and straighten their shoulders, not always formally, but usually with just that hint of stiffness which suggests a public face.” 29 likes
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