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We That Are Young

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  710 ratings  ·  137 reviews
When a billionaire hotelier and political operator attempts to pit his three daughters against one another, a brutal struggle for primacy begins in this modern-day take on Shakespeare's King Lear. Set in contemporary India, where rich men are gods while farmers starve and water is fast running out, We That Are Young is a story about power, status, and the love of a megalom ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published July 30th 2019 by Vintage (first published August 10th 2017)
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Paul Fulcher
Now deservedly shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize, alongside the outstanding shortlist for the 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize for 'gorgeous prose and hardcore literary fiction' from small, independent presses.

Edgar: The weight of this sad time we must obey.
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most. We that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

King Lear, Act 5 Scene 3

Postscript to my review: Disappointed this missed out on the Booker, par
Gumble's Yard

Galley Beggar Press is a small publisher responsible which aims to produce and support beautiful books and a vibrant, eclectic, risk-taking range of literature and which declares an aim to publish books that are hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose – a description which has been taken as the criteria for the Republic Of Consciousness prize.

Update 21/6/18. Now the well-deserved winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018. Congratulations to Preti Taneja and all at Galley Beggar.

This vibrant, epic, ambitious transplantation of King Lear to modern India is by far the longest book on the Republic of Consciousness Prize shortlist, and looks a potential winner. Taneja keeps the essential elements of the familiar Shakespeare version of the story in place, but allows herself plenty of scope to explore the issues, extremes of wealth and pove
Jonathan Pool
We That Are Young has a feel to it that's not dissimilar to Salman Rushdie's recent, 2017, novel, The Golden House. That's praise. Both novels ultimately revolve around a big figure, a patriarch, who is revealed to be rather less worthy of the adulation that his status and visibility might indicate. Preti Taneja's Devraj Bapuji to Rushdie's Nero Golden.
Both books shine a spotlight on an India of the latter 20th century, far removed from the deference or degradation (depending on your viewpoint)
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This should have been right smack dab in my wheelhouse, given my penchant for both Indian lit and Shakespeare (it's a modern retelling of Lear)... but I must say, despite some gorgeous prose, I found it for the most part rather tedious and almost gave up halfway through. In need of much judicious editing (the inciting incident of the patriarch's division of his spoils doesn't even occur into well over 100 pages into this LONG 553 pages!), I was also more than a little annoyed by the miniscule pr ...more
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, 2017, 2018-rofc

We That Are Young is published by Galley Beggar Press. Perhaps best known as the publisher that took the risk on A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing after everyone else had rejected it (it went on to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction), Galley Beggar Press is also the publisher of the wonderful Forbidden Line that I read earlier this year and which remains one of the most unusual books I have read in 2017.

My thanks to Gall
Inderjit Sanghera
A modern day re-telling of "King Lear", 'We Are That Young' is a brilliant exploration of greed, corruption and vice in modern India. The novel follows the aristocrat-cum-royal family of Devraj; a patriarch whose puissance dissolves once he cedes ownership of his company to his elder daughters, Garghi and Radha, only to rise, ephemerally, like a phoenix, in a haze of self-righteous indignation against the corruption inherent in the company he set-up, riding a wife of populism based on deep-seate ...more
Katia N
I've picked up this book as it received a lot of positive reviews here and has won Desmond Elliot prize for the first novel. I have to admit I was somewhat underwhelmed. The author models her book on King Lear and sets it in the modern day India. In general, 2018 was the year of classic retelling by the modern authors in English language. I am not big fan of the idea, though of course I admit that all the literature in a way is the retelling of the books written before. At this case as well I fe ...more
Jackie Law
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We that are young, by Preti Taneja, is a fabulous reworking of King Lear. Having enjoyed a number of adaptations of this Shakespearean tragedy on stage I was familiar with the direction the arc of the story was likely to take. This did not in any way detract from my enjoyment. The book is big in size, scope and depth. The action is set in modern India and offers a masterclass in the country, its people, and the stubborness and hurt inherent in wider family feuds.

The tale opens with the return of
Feb 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A great book can be great at different levels, but a bad one doesn’t have that luxury. Mislaid by all the hype and praise from western critics made me pick up this book. Probably this is the worst book I read in a long time. Pathetic plotting, miserable attempt at adapting King Lear in Indian context, lack of real knowledge on the subcontinent is so evident. I got migraine by constant feel of something getting drilled into my brain. I hardly write reviews, but this time thought that it was my re ...more
Emily M
Reading this has been an odyssey. I started strong, languished for months after the first third, and forced myself to finish in a week. I honestly can’t rate the experience, because on the one hand I’m dazzled by Taneja’s ambition for a debut novel and by all the ways she’s successful, and at the same time I was ground down by so. much. more. text. than. there. needed. to. be.

I like a good literary rewrite and I appreciated the creativity behind this 21st century Delhi version of King Lear. In p
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are some fine individual passages in this book, but overall I found it quite badly flawed.

Firstly, it was simply too long – it needed an editor’s firmer hand.

Secondly, as several other reviewers have pointed out, the book is peppered with snatches of Hindi with no translation. So, for example, I read this: have my farm, my office, my desk, my chair. Now my seminars and my boys. Nahin beti, nahin. Tum aisa nahin sakti ho. Do you think to have the whole Company for yourself?
What did
Viv JM
3.5 stars, rounded up for its audacity

"We That Are Young" is a retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear, set in India at the time of the anti-corruption riots (2011). It is creative and compelling but the writing made me feel rather feverish and discombobulated - I think this had a lot to do with the large amounts of untranslated Hindu interspersed throughout.

There were certainly moments of genius here, but I do think that (at over 500 pages) this book might have benefited from more ruthless editi
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wrote-it

We That Are Young by Preti Taneja

This spirited debut, one of the year’s most original novels, is an exquisite retelling of King Lear set in modern New Delhi
Review by Alexander Nurnberg

The Sunday Times, August 6 2017, 12:01am

Whoever was asked to write the blurb for Preti Taneja’s novel We That Are Young must have faced something of a quandary: when, or how (perhaps, even, whether) to reveal that it is a retelling of King Lear.

You can understand the problem. How best to acknowledge the ingenuity o
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Almost literal application of King Lear to an Indian Company situation with family ownerships. But it is hard to replicate the same level of conspiracy, intrigue and killings in an Indian Company Boardroom context and that is the biggest chink in the story. Most plot points feel contrived, and some laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Using a Shakespeare tragedy to tell a story isn't all that new, and many have done a great job of it. Rohinton Mistry in Family Matters, Vishal Bhardwaj's movies for instanc ...more
I've been trying my hardest to work with this book for nearly three weeks (ever since I finished the Jivan section). I took breaks to read other things. I started reading King Lear. I read other reviews. I tried longer and shorter reading sessions. I just never connected with it. It felt tedious, overwritten, the characters felt flat...

It was like an emperor-has-no-clothes moment as almost everyone I know has rated it 4 or 5 stars and most of the reviews seem glowing. About the best I can say f
A more detailed review here on my blog: Sant Reads.

A little mad but very well written. I would have enjoyed it much more had I not known the plot to King Lear, but hey, that's the price you pay for knowing Shakespeare.
Alan Teder
I’m just not lidderary enough for this one.

A [2] average is the best compromise as my rating sense ranged from [1] to [3].

It was a real challenge to read and finish this book and I was proceeding for only 10 or so pages a day for the longest time. There were only brief segments that were compelling enough to get through more. I still find it an interesting exercise to try to define what my problems were, even if they might only be my own and no one else’s.

Structure and Pacing
The book is di
Chris Chapman
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zz-yr-2018
Has now won the Desmond Elliott prize. Richly deserved!

How to do justice to the ambition of this book? My favourite character was Jeet and I think he embodies its incredible scope. In fact he seems to spend the length of the book trying to work out who he is. At first this translates into a passion for using his father's wealth to con uneducated villagers out of priceless antiquities, and this could be seen as shameless opportunism and exploitation. But I don't think it's a coincidence that the
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, gender
One of those novels that feel like they contain whole universes. It's an Indian take on King Lear, but it works well both if you're familiar with Shakespeare's play and if you're not. If you're not, you can enjoy this as an epic tale of a powerful family's younger generation attempting to seize power from their elders, with plenty of backstabbing, violence, sex, and media manipulation. Plus, you won't know all the twists, and there are many. Also, it might be easier to find your own connections ...more
I'm not sure that a rating would do this complicated, layered book justice. It's not just a retelling of King Lear in modern India, and if you read it for that alone, you'll be disappointed. There's so much more going on, and while I agree the book could have used some editing, I read it compulsively.

It was hugely entertaining and engrossing, and you do not need to understand Hindi in order to follow what's going, if you don't let it bother. And if you need to read books where you "like" the ch
This sprawling tragic novel about a billionaire Indian family based on Shakespeare's King Lear is full of madness, corruption, murder, and deceit. Like Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, the setting is largely Delhi and Kashmir. Taneja does an excellent job portraying modern-day India's new rich, the country's economic turmoil, and all its walks of life. ...more
Kasa Cotugno
This is the second "Lear" I've read in about a year, and while Dunbar, the Hogarth update version, written by Edward St. Aubyn was closer in tone to the original, this one, set in India was a more in depth rendering. I learned more about New Delhi rituals and customs, which slowed the progress of the narrative, and it could have been trimmed here and there. But the bones were present and made for pleasurable analysis. ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Overwritten. Tedious. A lot of hard work to get to the end - and not even worth it. A modern retelling of King Lear, which I haven't read, and which one doesn't have to have read to appreciate this. But the writing was all over the place, there was so much said and so little to take away.

I picked it up because of the praise it was getting on a couple of podcasts, it's won some literary prizes and some readers really seemed to have loved it - but ultimately the book is completely lost on me. The
Aditya Vijaykumar
3.5. That took pretty long. Preti Taneja's prose is beautiful and layered, which suits an adaptation of King Lear. Unfortunately, her characters are not consistent. I had this feeling that the male characters were very weakly written. The women in the book are brilliant though, so layered and conflict-filled that you cannot help but love them.

And maybe this is just me, but I expected much more from the climax. It seemed too serendipitous to me.
Azita Rassi
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intricate, successful adaptation, modernization, and localization of King Lear but too long in my opinion.
May 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had so much potential. It follows a large family in India who are all big players in a huge company, and is about how possession and public image causes them to descend into brutal and manipulative behaviour.

This sounds like a fascinating premise, but the pieces didn't come together right at all. The worst aspect of the book was the writing style, for its inconsistency. Taneja writes gorgeous prose, but her lovely language means that the actual events she is trying to explain are lost.
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a retelling of King Lear in the context of an Indian Business Group circa 2010-2011. This is apparently a first novel and is well crafted and easy to read, sort of ... Where to start in looking at this one? Some thoughts ...

To start with, King Lear is one of the grimmest and darkest of the tragedies of Shakespeare and retelling it in a contemporary Indian setting does not change that. There is not much redemption here for anyone, especially the father and his three daughters. This
Harry McDonald
King Lear, transposed to a massive company in India: the Devraj Company. His three daughters have their own agendas, a nephew sent running from the house and his half brother returning from America.

I did genuinely get a lot out of reading this. But it's a bloody lot of reading when you know what's coming, and it really does match the Shakespeare beat for beat, but the beats are stretched over many many pages where they take only a few lines in the play. It takes a long time for anything to happe
Vivek Vikram Singh
It should have been called - “we that are desperately trying to retell an epic story by setting it in a country and context about which we have extremely shallow knowledge but will pretend as we spent some summers there and foreign audiences wouldn’t be able to tell anyway and who cares if it is cloying and inaccurate and grating and stereotypical and references the only movie about India we know way too many times and we can get away with making people eat chholey with saag meat on private jets ...more
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Sarah Perry, chair of judges, said:

“Samira, Chris and myself were absolutely unanimous in our love and admiration for this novel, whose scope, ambition, skill and wisdom was, quite simply, awe-inspiring … all three of us sat together, shaking our heads, saying, ‘If this is her first novel, what extraordinary work will come next?’”


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