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The Lives of Others

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  4,190 ratings  ·  574 reviews
The aging patriarch and matriarch of the Ghosh family preside over their large household, made up of their five adult children and their respective children, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. Each set of family members occupies a floor of the home, in accordance to their standing within the family. Poisonous rivalries be ...more
Hardcover, 516 pages
Published October 1st 2014 by W. W. Norton Company (first published May 22nd 2014)
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Mj Don't bother. I met with 5 people to discuss this Four out of five said we would have abandoned the book had we not made a date to review it. It's a b…moreDon't bother. I met with 5 people to discuss this Four out of five said we would have abandoned the book had we not made a date to review it. It's a big investment of time without the commensurate payoff.(less)

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Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Neel Mukherjee's 'The Lives of Others' has one of the most heartbreaking openings to a book, that completely underlines the vast difference between the haves and the have-nots, and the inevitability of a violent uprising against the injustice of it all.

Calcutta 1967, with the economy in decline, and a Government unable or unwilling to deal with it, the city descends into riots. It is against this backdrop that we meet the Ghosh family, part of the elite of this city. This is a powerful family s
First of all, many, many best wishes and congratulations to the author, Neel Mukherjee for his book, The Lives of Others getting nominated in the Longlist for this year's Man Booker Prize. And secondly, a huge thanks to Neel Mukherjee and his publicist, for sending me over a copy of his book, in return for an honest review. Yes, I definitely feel over-the-moon and proud for getting this opportunity and I'll always be grateful to the author, Neel Mukherjee.

Supratik says,
"Ma, I feel I live in a
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
The Booker book I have been waiting for. Totally involving, emotionally gripping and thought-provoking.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowlands has as its jumping off point the Naxalite rebellion, social unrest in Bengal and police repression in Calcutta in the late 60s. I found that book disappointing, but the early Calcutta scenes did stay with me. Now Neel Mukherjee takes us inside – deep inside – that period of social upheaval in India, also giving us a sweeping family saga that stretches the century a
Emma Bailey
Finally! I feel like I've been reading this book for a year...and I can't say it has been a particularly enjoyable one. I have found it very confusing: too many characters (none of them likeable, apart maybe from Sona), too many stories, too much jumping around in the story line...I was hoping to learn about the history, the politics of the time but none of the reference were really explained. I leave this book with a sense of boredom and disappointment.
Jun 04, 2015 rated it liked it
As I read this, especially while feeling bogged down halfway through due to all the minutiae (it's not worn lightly), my mind drifted to other novels I felt did this kind of story better...

For one, I was reminded of A Suitable Boy, a book that at 1474 pages I could read again, while this one at 505 pages, I found too long. For another, The Lowland, though my least favorite Jhumpa Lahiri, covers some of the same time period, as well as a somewhat similar family situation with a widowed daughter-i
Alison Mercer
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a terrific book of the kind that doesn’t come along very often, and I urge you to read it. I was lucky enough to receive an advance proof copy, as Neel Mukherjee, the author, is an old friend, and I’m very proud to be included in the acknowledgements. However, the opinions that follow are all my own!
So – this is a BIG book, and first and foremost, it is a great feat of storytelling. Read it, luxuriate in it, discuss it with your book group. I’m not a gambler, but I’m tempted to put money
Kevin Ansbro
Sep 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who possess more patience than I do.
An unforgettable portrait of one family riven by the forces of history and their own desires."

(That is how the Daily Telegraph described this book).

Hmmm, perhaps it would have turned out to be unforgettable, but I abandoned it after a series of stop-start attempts.
Maybe it was because the prose was heavy going (monotonous even), or that my flow was impeded by having to reference Bengali words every so often?
Or maybe it was because I was only ever on the side of the downtrodden a
Larry Olson
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
Between the reviews and the fact that the book was shortlisted for the Man Booker I was expecting a really gripping and engrossing novel. The book is so flat and one dimensional, I wonder after reading the quotes on the jacket, if we in fact read the same book? It is well written in parts but a largely predictable storyline, dense and confusing historical references and completely uninteresting characters resulted in a really unsatisfying read.
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker
This is such an ambitious family saga. The title "Lives of Others" could be interpreted in many ways by each actor in the big Ghosh family and therein lies it's achievement. The book also gives a spectacular perspective on the Naxalite movement and the CPI(M) politics that has made West Bengal what it is - good or bad.

The Ghosh Household is an assortment of characters from a soap opera set in the 1967 Calcutta. In fact the opening chapter where we are introduced to each family within the family
Sep 14, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes life really is too short...

This is the story of a large, extended family all living under one roof in Calcutta, and of one of the children of the family who becomes a Marxist agitator following the Naxalbari incident. I abandoned it at the halfway point – sometimes life really is too short. Fellow Amazon reviewer 'Mister Hobgoblin' has described it as 'Like The Lowland, but twice as long and half as good' and I think that's a perfect description. And I thought The Lowland was pretty un
This is an impressively realised and ambitious novel on the social history of Bengal, contrasting the experiences of a decadent upper-middle class family struggling to maintain their opulent lifestyle despite a failing business, and those of their grandson, who leaves home in the late '60s for a life as a Maoist revolutionary mobilising poor and exploited rural peasants.
The narrative covers many different aspects of society and is full of colourful details. The main focus is on the corruption w
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: man-booker
Good grief! How did this book end up in the Man Booker short list? This is merely a poor-man's version of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.

Without exaggeration or prejudice I urge you to open the book at the midway point and begin your reading *there*. The first half of the novel is completely unnecessary and remarkably long. It is in the second half that Mukherjee shows his ability to compose lyrically crafted sentences, interesting action, and an unsoporific plot.

But is it worth plow
Pooja T
Hmmmm...I have mixed feelings about this book. As much as I enjoyed the writing and the family saga, there so many things I had a problem with. Most notable no one in this book is particularly likeable. Especially Supratik..I just couldn't get myself to care about his journey and his politics and ideology.
Paul Fulcher
"From what you've told me about what's going on at home, we have living proof of Marx's theories. You take away economic security and the whole pack of cards collapses. Everyone is at each other's throats. All these vaunted bourgeois values that prop up society - love, duty, honour, respect - all rest on power relations lubricated by economics."

The final book from the Booker shortlist (and my final verdict on that below) sees Neel Mukherjee tell the story of the Ghosh family, headed by the patr

I like to read family sagas, and this one covers three generations of an Indian family living in Calcutta. The story goes back and forth, from the life of the grandfather to his children and grandchildren, but also his servant Madan. The years covered go from the early 19th century to the 70ies. The chapters dedicated to the family alternate with chapters written like letters by one of the grown-up grandchildren.
There isn't only the interesting historical background, from the British occupati
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When this didn't win the Booker, I decided to return it to the library. Maybe I'll read it some day but it was not giving me a thrill.
Ranendu  Das
Simply the question is why I have not awarded the book a handful three stars! And the answer is as simple as that that I am utterly disappointed. Why? Oh, let me think...
1. The book is as voluminous (505 pages!) as a mammoth. As you will read on, you'll feel that a dead mammoth's weight is upon your shoulder. It easily could have been cut in half of its present size if Neel had not used oxford-full of adjectives, long description, monotonous analysis behind almost each of the thoughts from each
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2014
It is not often that I find myself agreeing with each and every blurb of a book. And this one of those rare instances. There are so many ways to describe things happening to and around us, and how we and others react to them. "For what can be more interesting than the lives of others?" And this cannot be more true when it comes to a Bengali - that eternal creature of intrigue. Coupled with that, a Bengali business family faced with a crumbling empire. This was so common an instances in the decad ...more
Sarah Maguire
If you like reading about intense poverty, harsh living, torture, the exploration of the mathematics of prime numbers, and capitalist vs Marxist theory (not to mention constantly flicking to the back of the book to search the glossary or make absolutely certain of the compound noun formations used in Indian familial nomenclature) - be sure not to miss this book.
Mal Warwick
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: trade-fiction
In exploring “the hidden inner cogs and wheels of the lives of others,” the Indian novelist Neel Mukherjee has written a book about the troubled process of social change at its most extreme — and won himself the Man Booker Prize for 2014 in the process. “What could be more interesting than other people’s lives?” he asks. His answer approaches the outermost boundaries of human depravity.

In a traditional sense, the protagonist of The Lives of Others is Supravit Ghosh, a third-generation scion of a
Another saga encompassing the trials and tribulations of the 20th century India, who struggled to attain independence in the first half, and later on struggled to circumvent the innumerable problems of an independent, democratic republic who had to face dissent from within and without.
The saga revolves around the Ghosh family, composed of the selfmade patriot, his children, their families, and a few others whose lives closely revolve in their radius. There is neediness, pride, dissent, forbidden
Azita Rassi
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can’t decide how much of my fascination with this book was due to its exoticism and my love of unknown languages and cultures and how much due to the writing itself, but all in all I enjoyed reading this long novel. Maybe enjoyed is the wrong word though. This was, after all, a book of small and large tragedies, in the domestic space as well as in public. At first, I was bored with the chapters narrated by Supratik and wondered why a writer who could so masterfully make you interested in the m ...more
Shreya Vaid
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
10 days with The Lives Of Others, a period of a glimpse into inhuman times via family saga. A family saga set between pre-independence Calcutta, plagued by colonialism, famine and the aftershocks of World War II, and the Calcutta of the 1960s, where students are embracing Marx, the Grateful Dead, and heroin.

A novel of unflinching power and emotional force, The Lives of Other by Neel Mukherjee introduces you to the Ghosh family, who have earned their name and fame by owning the Papermaking busine
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Believe it or not, I went up and down North AND central London to find a copy of this book. I’d wanted to read it for a while, but of course I remembered as soon as the longlist for the Man Booker Prize came out…and so did half of London, it would seem. Anyway, the book was well worth the effort. This is a Novel with a capital N, a complex and insightful work and wonderful storytelling. However, I warn you that this is no happy reading.

The novel revolves around the Gosh family, a relatively weal
Jul 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More like a 3.5, but I rounded down for the following reasons. How long it takes me to read a book is usually a good indication of how enthralling I found it. The LAST 500 page book I read (Michel Faber's new one) took me 2 days - this took me almost 2 weeks - and seemed an even longer slog! Beginning with a horrific murder/suicide and ending with a police torture/killing and ANOTHER suicide, Mukherjee's epic is an almost unrelenting, disgusting catalog of man's bleak inhumanity (including one c ...more
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: doorstoppers, 2017
I alternated so many times between 3 and 4 stars to rate this book, but finally decided at 3.5. There were quite a few pages that bore me and a lot of details that I could do without. However I did find beauty in Mukherjee's style. I liked how he structured the story and jumped from past to present, from one character's pov to another's, and I also liked the path he chose for his characters, remaining faithful to his idea. The one that a book should shock you, should be uncomfortable. For me it ...more
Indrani Sen
Oct 25, 2014 rated it liked it
I am relieved to have managed to reach the end of the book. It felt like a long book. I liked the parts set in Majgeria/Belpahari. I had very little knowledge about Naxalite work in the villages. I found this portion illuminating. Otherwise while the book touched upon many facets of life, I found the characters rather black and white. Actually except one white and a few grey characters, everyone seemed to be very black. All the bad qualities were heaped upon the Ghosh family in an unrelenting to ...more
Helen Dawson
My three stars are mainly for effort. An awful lot of work has gone into this novel. An awful lot. But for me it is overdone. There are too many voices, too many stories all crammed in to the one book. And Neel Mukherjee is not at all economical with his words.

The penultimate chapter of the book, is however, rather stunning. Uncomfortably stunning.
Jane Baron
... and this is the Booker short-list. Heaven help us. What were the committee thinking. It is too long by 200 pages. Throw away the diary section for a start. The characters are grumpy and hollow. I would rather suffer the pain of reading The Waves again.
Max Lauber
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whatever else this book is, it's intense. It contains not only the story of the Ghoshes, a middle class family in Calcutta, but also shows the reader in minute detail the operations of a communist movement, the Naxalites. These two narratives are initially kept separate, the chapters of the Ghosh family being printed in a different font than the chapters dealing with rural agitation tactics. Part of the pleasure of reading this book derived from how Mukherjee sets up two distinct styles - colorf ...more
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Neel Mukherjee was born in Calcutta. His first novel, A Life Apart , won the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award for best fiction, among other honors, and his second novel, The Lives of Others , was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Encore Prize. He lives in London. ...more

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“You take away economic security and the whole pack of cards collapses. Everyone is at each other’s throats. All these vaunted bourgeois values that prop up society – love, duty, honour, respect – all rest on power-relations lubricated by economics. They are the gloss people put on the naked truth: self-interest.” 16 likes
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