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All the Lives We Never Lived

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,161 ratings  ·  223 reviews
“In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.”

So begins the story of Myshkin and his mother Gayatri, who is driven to rebel against tradition and follow her artist’s instinct for freedom.

Freedom of a different kind is in the air across India. The fight against British rule is reaching a critical turn. The Nazis have come to power in
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 14th 2018 by MacLehose Press
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  1,161 ratings  ·  223 reviews

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Angela M
3.5 stars
Once in a while, I’m left struggling to understand how I feel about a book I’ve just read. This was one of those books. The story itself is full of struggles both personal and political. There are a number of things I liked about it, but yet something was missing that I find difficult to pinpoint. The writing in particular struck me from the beginning, beautiful prose and wonderfully reflective of emotion. I find that I enjoy first person narratives ( except in biographical novels) .
Diane S ☔
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
One's sense of identity and the interior and exterior forces that help shape the person we become. Our narrator for most of the book is Myshkin, now a horticulturist, looking back on his life, the personal and the changes in his country. We learn of his mother's early life in 1930 India, and her how her childhood shaped the person she became. How her leaving when he was only nine, changed his perception and the course of his life. His father, a difficult man who makes a decision that also ...more
Theresa Alan
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This novel has beautifully written sentences and images, but the story itself is impossible to get into because it keeps going off on tangents that don’t move the plot forward. It's about Myshkin coming to terms with his artistic mother rebelling against what Indian culture at that time in history deemed acceptable for women--she ran off with a German artist, leaving Myshkin and his father to fend for themselves in a time of war.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this novel,
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Seemita by: Starmark
Letters. Those intimate little bits of paper and ink that hold many worlds, some known and some hidden. A best friend who takes all our secrets and refrains from being judgemental. Also, an enemy who slays every icy vein and renders us defenceless. A lap that cradles at night to keep our insomnia at bay. Also, a gust that denudes our pretences and tramps on our breathing. Of many dimensions and flights – of success and euphoria, of defeat and grief, of desire and melancholy, of murder and ...more
Rakhi Dalal
The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin

The only constant in life is change; the phenomenon that drives those wheels which move our life forward. Though being shaped by our own decisions or choices, the trajectory is difficult to ascertain. For, being a part of an ephemeral (also chaotic) world, much that we go through or are faced with, is also influenced by our circumstances, largely the familial ties and
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read all of Roy's four novels (the first one, 'An Atlas of Impossible Longing', twice), and was surprised (but kind of delighted) to find this most reminiscent of that debut work, rather than 'The Folded Earth' or her Booker-nominated 'Sleeping on Jupiter'. Regardless, it is always a sublime pleasure to read her luminous and luxurious prose, and am hoping that this year's Booker committee again sees fit to place her on the longlist, at the very least.

The story is told in memory, from the
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the Lives We Never Lived was not perfect, but there’s something about it that really drew me in. The story is set in India, moving between the 1930’s and the 1980’s. The narrator, Myshkin, is in his 60’s, and looking back on his childhood. His mother left the family when Myshkin was 9 years old. Later in life, having received a package containing letters written by his mother in the first few years after her departure, Myshkin tries to make sense of this time in his life. As the backdrop to ...more
Ron Charles
Anuradha Roy’s new novel, “All the Lives We Never Lived,” is once again filled with impossible longing. The plot is a silhouette in words, an anguished delineation of the shadow cast by a woman’s absence. “In my childhood,” the narrator begins, “I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.” Though many decades have passed, the pain and shame of that abandonment still feel fresh. “My mother had torn herself up and scattered her shreds in the breeze when I was nine. Ever ...more
Asha Seth
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am battling between a 4 and a 5.
Overwhelming characters, rich poetic prose, and an engaging storyline make for a heartwarming reading experience.
Abundantly melancholic to a point where it gets under your skin and weighs down your heart. But that's all right, for some books crave to be heard. No, not heard, but felt. And this is one of those books. You'll love every bit of it and hate yourself for loving it for you feel so torn and heartbroken for Gay (Gayatri). And then there is Myshin's
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can easily see this novel ending up as one of my favorite books of the year. It is the 2nd book in a row that I have given 5 stars, the 1st being Tim Winton’s The Shepard’s Hut. Roy’s novel joins Winton’s in being one I would be happy to see on the Booker longlist (which, as I write this, is only 23 days away). I can only hope such a winning reading streak continues for me.

So…I am tempted to leave it at that and allow future readers to discover the beauty of this novel on their own. For some
Katie Lumsden
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this one. Such an engaging, moving, fascinating read. It follows a man looking back on his life growing up in India in the 1930s, focused on his relationship with his relationship with his mother, who was absent for most of his childhood. I found it such a compelling read, beautifully written with a fantastic engagement with that period in history, and I would highly recommend it. I read this for the Watler Scott Prize longlist and am so sad it didn't make the shortlist - it ...more
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
"It is the year 1937 that I feel on my skin." from All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy

As a toddler, Myshin suffered from convulsions, which led his grandfather to nickname him after the character in Dostoevsky's The Idiot. The nickname stuck, even after the fits stopped--much to the boy's chagrin. "Innocents are what make humankind human," his grandfather explained.

In 1937 Myshkin's mother warned him to come straight home from school. Fatally, he was delayed. He never saw his mother
Fidan Lurin
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
All the Lives We Never Lived is a stunning achievement of Anuradha Roy, being his fourth novel. It is a beautiful overlapping history that explores love, secrecy and the definition of family. This book, about halfway through began to remind me of Donna Tartt’s, The Goldfinch in the way that the story of a mother who is really only briefly actually present in either of the books is told by their sons, sick with longing ofr their presence and their maternal love.

All the Lives We Never Lived is a
Kevin Shepherd
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, fiction, reviewed
"I need nobody else. I am contented and complete with my animals in a way I never have been with human beings. People think of my solitude as an eccentricity or a symptom of failure, as if I am closer to animals and trees because human beings betrayed me or because I found nobody to love. It is hard to explain to them that the shade of a tree I planted years ago or the feverish intensity of a dog fruitlessly chasing a butterfly provides what no human companionship can."

This isn't a particularly
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Avishek Bhattacharjee
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
কোথাও আমার হারিযে যাওযার নেই মানা...
I can only remember this song while writing a short review of this exceptional piece of art.Recently I have read Chinatown which was like an epic and now "All the lives we never lived".The best part of this book is the overlap of history and fiction.The content of a tormented tortured nation, world war, love story , ruins and remnants of war, famous personalities evokes a sense of peculiar attachment with the read. Anuradha Roy's immaculate research , vivid
Donna Davis
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: creative writing teachers, first 10%
I had not read Roy’s work before, but when I saw this galley—with an arresting cover and the promise of a Man Booker nominated author—I jumped on it. Thanks go to Net Galley and Atria Books for the review copy. It’s for sale now.

I’m months late with my review, and the cause of my tardiness is my ambivalence about this book and my confusion as to why it fizzled for me. It starts out well, and at the outset I love Gayatri, the nonconformist mother of Myshkin, our other main character. Every
Chaitalee Ghosalkar
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
You have one life to live. What do you do with it? Do you live it the way expected of you, confirming to the norms, all the while suffocating yourself with the futility of living the way you don't want to? Or do you break free of the intangible shackles and be the true owner of your life, even if it comes at the cost of the wrath of the world?

All through the book, there's a profound sadness that settles upon you, reminding you of the time or occasion when you have been in a similar position as
This one isn't doing it for me, so I'll pass. Next, please.
Priyanka Naik
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
What happens when an artistic soul is trapped in the finitude of practicality...when someone you’re meant to spend your life with does not understand your passion, constantly degrades your choices, and humiliates you for behaving differently (than he expects)?
There are two options for a woman. Either she throttles her desires, sacrifices her passion for the sake of family/society and makes peace with living a dissatisfied, subservient existence (like most women in failing marriages do), OR she
Richa Bhattarai
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book you *can* judge by its cover - it’s beautiful !

I’ve loved Anuradha Roy since I read #anatlasofimpossiblelonging. The relation between the protagonists, intense, flawed and arresting. I was so taken with it that I named our honeymoon album after the book.
In this novel, it’s wonderful to watch how much more mature Roy’s writing has become. An aging horticulturist tries to understand why his mother left him and ran away with a foreigner when he was just a child. The scene is
Hansda Shekhar
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel is quite an achievement. There is history, there are cameos by famous people from the past, there is a love story, there is a family drama, there is a search, there are also current affairs and environmental issues, and all of it in an engrossing, moving, tear-jerking read. The action takes place in India and Bali, the canvas is huge, and Anuradha Roy keeps it all in place as she seems to surpass her own excellence. I totally loved "All The Lives We Never Lived".
(This is a somewhat
Sahil Pradhan
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fiction
Here is a novel that could soeasily have been loud. Itis set among large events: the fight for Indian independence and the second world war. It features characters from history who enter thelives of the novel’s fictional characters, often todramatic effect – the poetRabindranath Tagore, the singer Begum Akhtar, the dancer and critic Beryl de Zoete and the German painter and curator Walter Spies. It has at its heart ayoung boy whose mother leaves him to live in another country, and whose father ...more
Manreet Someshwar
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
All The Lives We Never Lived, Anuradha Roy’s fourth novel, published by Hachette India, is the story of an elderly man, with the unusual name of Myshkin Rozario, looking back upon his life as he attempts to piece together the jigsaw of his mother’s abrupt disappearance when he was a child. The narrative is set amidst the turmoil of 1930s pre-independent India when freedom struggle is ratcheting up. Obviously, Gandhi lingers in the background, as do the Nazis and Hitler, while Rabindranath Tagore ...more
Sairam Krishnan
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even without reading Anuradha Roy’s earlier books, All The Lives We Never Lived will strike you as something quite special. For one, its pacing and pitch is perfect. It never speeds up or slows down, something which at times happens with novels of this depth and scale. And it also doesn’t preach to you, as other novels dealing with similar events and characters do.

You’ll know as you read that this is a writer at the top of her game: There’s literally no loose end in the novel, and the taut,
Karla Strand
I had heard a lot of buzz about this book and it did not disappoint. The prose is lyrical, lovely, and detailed. The character development is full and rich, as is the plot. This is a book I would read again in order to get all of the nuances the author clearly intends. I appreciated how Roy was able to take on the myriad of voices she includes, as well as the varying time frames. With themes including sex roles and gender equality, child abandonment, independence, war, and love, this story is ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: review-for-hbr
Review to come later.
Anupama C K(b0rn_2_read)
Though I could understand Gayathri, it was hard to forgive for leaving Myshkin behind
I know I probably should have enjoyed this book but I struggled with it! It took me well over 100 pages to “get into it”. I had trouble understanding the characters and their choices, especially the mother in this book. The writing is well done but this book wasn’t for me.
Karen Raskin
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately, I ended up skimming this book. The writing was very good, but I couldn't get into the story.
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Angela, Diane and Esil discuss 33 9 Nov 29, 2018 08:01AM  

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Anuradha Roy was educated in Hyderabad, Calcutta and Cambridge (UK). She is an editor at Permanent Black, an independent press publishing in South Asian history, politics and culture. She lives mainly in Ranikhet, India, with her husband Rukun Advani and their dog, Biscoot.
“As a child, I would place my back against one of our trees and feel its reassuring solidity, its immobility. It was not going to move, it would never go anywhere, it was rooted to its spot. For as long as they are alive, trees remain where they are. This is one of life's few certainties. The roots of trees go deep and take many directions, we cannot foresee their subterranean spread any more than we can predict how a child will grow. Beneath the earth, trees live their secret lives, at times going deeper into the ground than up into the sky, entwined below with other trees which appear in no way connected above the ground.” 4 likes
“I am of a temperament that needs the written word. For anything to have meaning, it has to be set down, it must live on paper before it is fully alive in my head. It has to be a series of words in a sequence in order to reveal a meaning and pattern.” 2 likes
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