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The Far Field

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  5,814 ratings  ·  905 reviews
Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay's The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present.

In the wake of her mother's death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remot
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Grove Press
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Liz Sheth I think Vijay was very intentional in not giving us any concrete reasons for why Shalini is the way that she is, but she does give us a multitude of e…moreI think Vijay was very intentional in not giving us any concrete reasons for why Shalini is the way that she is, but she does give us a multitude of environmental factors, including her mother's mental health and her the privileged world she comes from. Privilege for Shalini comes in the form of not needing to become anything in order to be successful--she has second-hand success from her father. She can afford to be unmoored; no one depends on her and she's not even aware of this until she begins to fear that she's proving to be a burden to the families she stays with and sets out to make herself feel better by being useful. She wields her use incorrectly, ultimately.
Primarily, I think there's a lot to be said about the westernization of Bangalore at the time that Shalini is growing into adulthood. Whereas her mother probably had an arranged marriage--her life decided for her in many ways, Shalini is a first generation female with as much agency as she can possibly be given and she has so little context with which to form that agency into something productive for herself. Her mother certainly had agency and great autonomy, but it was held on a leash.(less)

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Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Winner of the 2019 JCB Prize for Indian Literature

The Far Field follows Shalini, a young woman who is adrift and grieving after her mother’s death, as she journeys from her comfortable home in urban Bangalore to a Kashmiri mountain village. Shalini is searching for a man who had disappeared from her mother’s life years before. But while she seeks to unravel the events that led to her mother’s death, Shalini’s presence sparks danger for the local residents.

Madhuri Vijay’s prose is elegant and
Elyse  Walters
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Audiobook...narrated by Sneha Mathan..
.....great vocal!!!

Shalini, 30 years of age at the start, was from the city Bangalore, in India. She came from a wealthy family.
As a child - she remembers an animated traveling salesman - Bashir Ahmed - that visited her family. Bashir then disappears from their lives....wasn’t seen for a decade.

Shalini loved her mother - but their relationship was confusing to her as a child. Her mother had a strong vivacious confident personality at times - and down right
Book of the Month
Why I love it
by Brianna Goodman

When you work at BOTM, you read …. a lot of books. So many that at times I’m not even sure which ones I’ve got in my bag. So when I grabbed The Far Field as an in-case-I-run-out-of-things-to-read-this-weekend, it was a rare moment of serendipity; I had no idea I was packing a book so wonderful that it would become my favorite read of 2018.

The Far Field follows Shalini, a young, fairly well-off Indian woman, who travels to the politically fraught region of Kashmir i
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love books about Asia and this one is a winner.

Shalini is a young woman adrift. Her beloved, mercurial mother has just died and Shalini is recently graduated from college, living with her father in Bangalore and going through the motions in a dead end job. On a whim, Shalini decides to track down a former friend of her mother’s, a mysterious door-to-door salesman who shared a secret bond with Shalini and her mother. Knowing very little about this man’s whereabouts other than he lived in a remo
Ron Charles
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
"The Far Field" is narrated by Shalini, who tells us at the opening, “I am thirty years old and that is nothing” — an acknowledgment that she is neither young enough to be innocent nor old enough to be wise. She delivers this searching story in a trance of sorrow, still stunned by the cruelty she witnessed and the disaster she precipitated.

Like Anuradha Roy’s recent novel, “All the Lives We Never Lived,” “The Far Field” is about the search for a missing mother in India, though it takes a wholly
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Tl;dr: The Far Field has passages of gorgeous writing but pulls the novel equivalent of a hamstring trying to prove its point about privilege and what it does (nothing good) and how it blinds you.

The Far Field is the recollections of Shalini, a thirty year old privileged woman living in Bangalore who shares what happened to her when, as a twentysomething grieving the death of her mother, she decided to track down a traveling salesman from Kashmir who visited their home (and who her mother was fa
Julie Christine
Shalini, the only child of an upper-middle class Bangalore couple, has stalled. Twenty-four, a college graduate, privileged and beautiful, she should be coasting into the next stage of her life. Instead she is mired in grief over her mother's recent death. Unable to find meaning in her work or her few friendships, Shalini hovers over memories of her mercurial, moody mother, searching for clues about herself. The only part of her past which moors her, the only time she can recall her mother's hap ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
A 3, 3.5 star book elevated by a 5 star audiobook narrator

Watch me discuss this book in my January wrap up
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At the end of last year, I decided to actually use my NetGalley account and request eARCs: I read some amazing ones, two of which were written by new favourite authors: Meg Elison & Samanta Schweblin.

My first ARC for 2019 is Madhuri Vijay’s remarkable debut novel, The Far Field and I couldn’t be more thrilled: the writing completely swept me away, creating a vivid picture of the beauty of and the tragic and brutal conflicts in Kashmir and Kishtwar. It deals with social and political issues
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

A couple of weeks ago, I started seeing this book everywhere - Instagram, Facebook, you name it... When I learnt it was set in India, I knew I had to read it.

The story follows a 24 year old Shalini, a privileged young woman from Bangalore, who, after her mother's death, decides to set off on a journey to find her mother's long lost friend from Kashmir. The narrative switches between the presence and Shalini's childhood memories of her eccentric mother. Finding a pleasure in mocking and
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
The main character in The Far Field is a prickly, emotionally disconnected young woman who travels to Kashmir to seek a connection with her dead mother. Even though I was frustrated with Shalani, there is much to appreciate in this novel. Her relationship with her mother and separately, her father were vividly drawn. Both settings, a wealthy home in Bangalore and the mountains of Kashmir were new to me and eye-opening. Focusing on just one small area Vijay illuminates a complicated political lan ...more
Hayley Stenger
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sharini, a 24-year-old affluent girl from Bangalore, India, encountered the realities of life after the passing of her mother. In her search for Bashir Ahmid, who used to sell clothes to her mother, she ventured off to the northern region of Kashmir and discovered a new life, new values, and new mission, after being confronted with the often violent politics in the region. It was betrayal and lies that would force her to grow up fast the most. Her youthful ignorance which inspired her choices(of ...more
Anna Luce
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Elif Shafak, Ann Patchett, The Shadow Land, Self-Portrait with Boy, Purple Hibiscus
★★★★✰ 4.5 stars

“Over time, I told myself, I would try to deserve them all. […] I had chosen this place, these people, this life, with its secrets and its violence, its hardness and its beauty, and even thought I was not yet worthy, even thought I would never belong, I would not leave.I would stay and try.”

The Far Field is an exceptional debut novel. Madhuri Vijay has written a quietly intense tale that both conjures and conveys feelings of uncertainty.

After her mother's death Shalini becomes de
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a devastating story about flawed humanity, family relationships and the consequences of abused trust. This is an amazing first novel by Madhuri Vijay. The characters in this novel are complex and compelling and I felt invested in their futures. The fictional world revealed to us allows for the discussion of crimes that are clearly not entirely safe to discuss in a non-fiction format. I’m left thinking about how, in places like Kashmir, we make so many assumptions about what is happening ...more
Vivek Tejuja
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I honestly do not know how to review The Far Field. It is one of those books that has so much to offer that one doesn’t know where to start talking about it. The varied themes, the writing, the plot, the characterization, or even the way it often makes you think about your relationship with people and the world at large. To me, The Far Field is one of the best books I’ve read this year and rightly so.

I started the book with great trepidation given the negative reviews I had read online, but all
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Will be recommending this one for a long time. Riveting, beautifully written and timely. Definitely on my 2019 favourites list.
Monica Kim: Reader in Emerald City
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
“I am thirty years old and that is nothing.” novel’s simple yet devastating first sentence sets the tone of the novel. “This country, already ancient when I was born in 1982, has changed every instant I’ve been alive. Titanic events have ripped it apart year after year, each time rearranging it along slightly different seams and I have been touched by none of it…” — The Far Field, Madhuri Vijay
Madhuri Vijay’s “The Far Field” blew me away — elegantly & exquisitely written, strong command of sto
Jan 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
Book is about the mid-twenties Shalini who goes on a journey to find someone after her mom dies.

This book was slow and long. Scenery descriptions were cliché and bland which is disappointing in a book about such a vibrant place. Plot points seemed highly manufactured (maybe the title should be "The Far-Fetched") and the potential to be interesting was mostly never realized. All in all really not into it.

I disliked the protagonist with a kind of detached distaste due to the fact that she was so
Robert Sheard
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A staggering, devastating debut novel. Read it now!
Alka Joshi
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This novel captivated me from the first sentence to the last. (So many readers have already summarized the plot that I don't feel the need to do it here.) Vijay has created a conflicted protagonist, at once savvy and vulnerable, whom I wanted to protect from all the hardship I felt she was about to face. Vijay also built a convincing portrait of Shalini's mother, a complicated woman who was hard on her daughter (calling her "little beast"). She loved Shalini fiercely but kept pushing her away. W ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Three years after her mother’s death, 24 year old Shalini decides to leave her privileged life in Bangalore to travel to a village in Kashmir. She wants to track down a traveling salesman who had been her mother’s friend. Her mother had been a complex, sharp-tongued, force of nature who didn’t suffer fools gladly. Frankly, she was a much more interesting character than Shalini, who took naïveté to the level of stupidity. Her chronic self absorption caused terrible harm to people gracious enough ...more
Three years on from her mother's death, Shalini is still struggling with her grief. She and her bold, erratic mother had been close, although Shalini would often think she never really knew her. Some of her happiest memories were from the years of her childhood when the travelling Kashmiri clothes salesman, Bashir Ahmed, would drop by to visit and regale the two of them with stories. When Shalini loses her job due to seemingly terminal lassitude, she decides to break away from her father and her ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i'm struggling to find a place to start this review. in many ways, the far field is an evasive book, moving between failures in communication, missed opportunities to speak or act, moments in which characters slip beyond each other's reach, offering, in answer to the question, "what should be done?" only what has been done, and who has been hurt by it. in others, it is a brightly, sharply lucid book, carefully attuned to the nuances of caring and its boundaries, to grief and closure, to complici ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: botm
I have mixed feelings about this one. Despite its heft, it read pretty quickly, but I wish the author or her editor would have worked on the pacing of the story. It felt like the beginning and end happened really really quickly, and the middle just draaaagged on. It could have been about 50-75 pages shorter, and would have made the narrative stronger. I also don't know how I feel about the story as a whole; the main character did not seem to have any breakthrough or major emotional development d ...more
Britta Böhler
The novel started out strong in the first couple of chapters but after that, disintegrated completely and neither the story nor the characters made any sense to me. But the writing was really good and it's a debut, so 2*.
Dec 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
My favorite quote: "I closed my eyes and was aware of a sense of liberation not exactly peaceful and not detached from sorrow. Now, I thought, I was truly adrift."
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I can't believe this is a debut novel, it's such a profound, moving and absorbing story, and so beautifully and confidently written, too. This novel is also a masterclass in characterisation, character development, and creating a vivid setting.

From the start I was pulled in by the complicated relationship between Shalini, the main character who's also the narrator, and her emotionally volatile and elusive mother. After her mother's death, Shalini in her grief decides to find a Kashmiri man who u
Krutika Puranik
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
| Book Review | The Far Field.

“What I am, what I was, and what I have done—all of these will become clear soon enough.” - Madhuri Vijay.

Winner of the JCB Prize for Literature 2019, The Far Field instantly became a favourite amongst many readers. Funnily enough, I chose this book without even reading the blurb and perhaps this is why I was always eager to know what would happen next. Although there were many aspects of the book that I truly enjoyed, the narration prevails significantly. It feel
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 and I could easily have rounded up as down.

While I truly admire and enjoy innovative literature, I often long for what I refer to as that ‘old fashioned’ novel, something to slip into and lose myself completely to the story. The Far Field more than satisfied that desire. It was ideal for my present mood. While a lengthy novel such as this runs the risk of being slow at times, I found myself thoroughly engrossed as secrets slowly emerged, questions answered. The pacing was perfect, never leav
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Madhuri Vijay was born in Bangalore. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, and her writing has appeared in Best American Non-Required Reading, Narrative Magazine and Salon, among other publications. The Far Field is her first book.

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