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A State of Freedom

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,427 ratings  ·  271 reviews
'The most astonishing and brilliant novel I have read in a long, long time' Hanya Yanagihara

What happens when we attempt to exchange the life we are given for something better? Can we transform the possibilities we are born into?

A State of Freedom prises open the central, defining events of our century – displacement and migration – but not as you imagine them. Five chara
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published July 6th 2017 by Vintage Digital
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Diane S ☔
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read
Stories connected by both a common theme and recurring characters in some, five stories in total. He should us an India, where the wealthy can live down the block from the slums, though the slums are hidden behind a sea wall. Where people are trying to better their lives grabbing at chances for either themselves or their children. The second story is by far the easiest, at least emotionally to read. A young man return from America for a month with plans to write a regional cookbook of recipes fr ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018, modern-lit
I don't know why it took me so long to get round to reading this one. My expectations were very high after the brilliant The Lives of Others, and this follow up did not disappoint.

This book is mostly about the poor and disenfranchised in contemporary India's divided society. The book consists of 5 loosely linked stories - the first and last being very short.

The second part links the rest together - a rich emigre returns to Mumbai to visit his parents, and becomes interested in the lives of thei
Peter Boyle
I began reading this novel last week when a Guardian review tipped it as a Booker Prize contender. In the end it didn't make a fiercely competitive longlist and I can kind of see why. But in spite of some minor flaws, there is a lot to like about it.

The book is a collection of five interconnected tales, all set in present day India. In the first, a US-based lecturer returns to his homeland with his six-year-old son and experiences a growing sense of unease as they explore various tourist attract
Eric Anderson
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Neel Mukherjee may have narrowly missed out on winning the Booker Prize when his previous novel “The Lives of Others” was shortlisted in 2014, but someone ought to give this writer a crown just for writing such impactful openings in his novels. In both that book and his new novel “A State of Freedom” I was moved, surprised and totally gripped after reading the first twenty or thirty pages. The vignettes which open these novels are separate from the main plots but have the ability to capture a re ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book reads more like five novellas or short stories rather than a novel, although I did spot a few connections between stories (at least one between #2 and #4.)

The fifth story is all one sentence.

The fourth story is multiple sections following young girls from rural areas. One, the primary character, is forced to leave home and school at age 8 to contribute to the income of her family, and endures endless hardship. Her childhood best friend follows another route by becoming a revolutionary,
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
As I was reading the last pages of this uncomfortable and upsetting novel, my eyes were streaming. My grief was overwhelming.

What story set in India is easy to read? E. M. Forster's Passage to India, depicting British racism and the confused heroine nearly destroying a native Indian man's life because he was more attractive than her fiancé? Or Rumor Godden's novels and stories set in the India of her childhood, and where she returned to live with her children, their cook adding ground glass to t
Gumble's Yard
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This interview gives an excellent perspective on some of Mukherjee’s inspirations:

The book, both in title, structure and content is inspired by V.S. Naipaul’s In a Free State

It is a wonderfully formally audacious book. He has three novellas bookended by a prologue and epilogue, and not a single of those narratives join in any kind of obvious way, and yet it is a novel. I found myself asking, Why is it a novel? It returns very interesting answers

In th
Faroukh Naseem
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee is out on paperback now by @penguinukbooks (Thanks for the review copy!)
It took me a while after finishing the book to get my thoughts in order, like most books that I've loved as an adult, this book wasn't written to please, rather to make you scratch your brain cells through your scalp.
#theguywiththebookreview presents A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee.
ASOF consists of 5 stories ranging between 20-80 pages. Each focuses on one character and mostly the
mindful.librarian ☀️
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy of this title for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

STATE OF FREEDOM is said to be a novel, but I would prefer to classify it as a collection of connected short stories or novellas ~ with the connections being sometimes fleeting. I had to reread several portions of the books multiple times to find the shared characters/moments that I missed the first time.

I have been trying for hours to try to determine how to rate this work,
Alison Mercer
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A State of Freedom is an enlightening, impeccably crafted novel, both tender and terrifying. It further explores the questions raised by Neel Mukherjee’s previous novels, A Life Apart and The Lives of Others: what is it to be a migrant, what it is to be poor, vulnerable and powerless, and what it is to be free – or to try to be.

The novel is formed of five interconnected sections with different voices and related characters, whose stories echo, frame and shape each other. This structure serves i
May 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is three novellas book-ended by two much shorter stories. The opening story is short and, if truth be told, not actually very interesting. However, as a man and his son travel together in a car, they see several things that are then explored in more depth in later stories. The see a man fall to his death from a construction project. They see a man with a dancing bear.

The second story introduces us to a man returning to India to visit his family and who spends time talking to two of the serv
Renita D'Silva
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, harrowing, thought provoking.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fantastic. Read it guys, before it bags the numerous awards it deserves.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Around 3.5 stars. This is the second book that I have read by the author, "The lives of others" being the first one, which was a really good book. It presented a really interesting tale of an old-school Bengali household as it struggles to run a family business while keeping their familial bonds intact.

This book presents the story in a different format; a set of 5 stories in parts, following and focussing on an individual's story as they bump into those from the other segments. The recurring the
This is a tough one to rate. The writing is excellent, but it is billed as a novel. It's not. It's five loosely connected stories. So, I'm docking a star because that's annoying.

This was also a tough one to read. When cruelty is described, it is commonplace and true. It doesn't flinch. I see why it was on the Booker list.
Michelle Curie
May 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: short-stories
Reading this felt like going on vacation to a place that just makes you feel guilty about your own stable and financially secure life. We are taken to India, a country where the gap between the rich and poor is so wide that it is almost hard to believe all those people are living door to door.

A State of Freedom is a collection of draining short-stories, that are all linked to each other. In the first one, a father visits India with his son after having moved to the United States, where his own
Loring Wirbel
Let me make clear that it only took a few paragraphs to understand why Mukherjee got a Man Booker short-listing for his last work. The writing here is exquisite, particularly in the final stream-of-consciousness pages. I'll add that fragmentary novels comprised of seemingly unrelated vignettes do not scare me. I can even tackle Joyce, and novels that resemble short stories, like Claire-Louise Bennett's Pond, are fascinating. In considering A State of Freedom, I kept wavering between three and fi ...more
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An updated, less angry reaction:
This book upset me deeply, both because much of the content is utterly depressing and often repulsive and because I did not enjoy the shifting perspectives and writing styles. The first story's ending still confuses me, and so much of the writing at that point was (in my opinion) ridiculously and unnecessarily wordy, with obscure words that weren't in my vocabulary and I also could not riddle out because the context clues were also so strangely worded. Felt like
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I started writing this review, I didn't really know what to make of this book. By the end, I knew it deserved five stars.

I will say, I love reading books by Indian authors. There's a certain pleasure in seeing a book in English with sprinkles of Gujarati, Hindi, and other languages I barely know. When you grow up reading about the rolling hills of England or the plains of the American Midwest, seeing India described in the same tones is validating, and sometimes strange. Many of the novels
Amirah Jiwa
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Via five interconnected stories set in present-day India, Mehta paints a vivid and heartbreaking picture of the pain associated with transitioning between place, circumstance, and class. Each of the five sections of the book functions almost as a character sketch and could stand alone as a short story if it weren't for the fact that wanting to know how each connects to the other is what keeps you reading on. The characters are all well-developed and unexpected—no cliches to be found— and Mehta e ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book crept up on me. It kept getting better and better and by Part IV I'm completely and irrevocably hooked and I'm officially in love - even though I was a little uncertain and unimpressed in the beginning.

This book broke my heart over and over again. It made me grateful for my literacy, for my family, for my daily meals that I take for granted, for my education and for being safe and happy enough to concern myself with trivial things like fictional novels and blogs and book club.

Sep 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Reading the synopsis I expected the book to be very different than what it was and because of that expectation in my head I couldn't connect between what I was reading and between what I have read about the book and what I thought it would be so it just threw me off. It is not something about the author or their writing style because if anything what made me try to continue reading was their style, but I guess to me it felt like it wasn't marketed well or maybe I didn't get it, but it is a pass ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a collection of five loosely connected stories of extreme poverty and the desire to overcome. Overall my impression was each story worked individually very well, but the attempt, even as good as it was, of connecting these stories was too much. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in a non-american pov but would fall short of recommending this widely, as not everyone can enjoy great writing simply because it is.
Thank you to the publishers for providing me with this arc
Amy Prosenjak
Oh my, terribly disjointed stories and awful characters and situations. Skip it!!
Abandoned--the unrelenting cruelty to Raju, the bear, in part three made me put this down. It was great until then.
katen moore
no no no no stories about dancing bears, thank you no
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Original Review: Mad Book Love

This is a collection of short stories (really two very short stories, and three quite long), all told from the perspective of people within different social classes in India. The first story is about an Indian man who has moved to the United States and has brought back his American-born son to visit the Taj Mahal, to see his native country. The second is told from the perspective of a man who came from wealth, who has now living a very successful life in London and
Ankita Chauhan
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review Link :
While trying to check the bill before settling at the reception desk – just an old habit, inculcated by his father, of giving any bill a once-over to see that he had not been overcharged – he realized that he had lost the ability to perform the simple function of adding up the individual items and the tax that together made up the grand total. He tried again and again. Then he took out his wallet and tried to count the rupee and US dollar not
Richard Gray
"The battle in this matter was a three-way one, between space, money and need, and need almost always lost."

Less of a novel than a collection of vignettes (or three novellas) focusing on alienation, isolation, and the base human urge to be something other than their current lot in life. Neel Mukherjee delivers an insightful piece about inequality in India, constantly comparing his protagonists' situations to an objective "other."

Around the halfway mark I was struggling a bit with the animal crue
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have been generally off books by Indian writers in English, especially those living in the West. There is often something contrived about the stories, even when the writing is good. In the case of this author, he writes well, and I picked up this book only because I had liked his earlier two books. And of course, this book too had great reviews at all the right places -NYT and Guardian etc...

It is not a story, but the account of the lives of five protagonists whose lives overlap very briefly a
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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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