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The Clear Light of Day

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  2,182 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews

Set in India's Old Delhi, CLEAR LIGHT OF DAY is Anita Desai's tender, warm, and compassionate novel about family scars, the ability to forgive and forget, and the trials and tribulations of familial love. At the novel's heart are the moving relationships between the members of the Das family, who have grown apart from each other. Bimla is a dissatisfied but ambitious teach

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Paperback, 183 pages
Published June 24th 1982 by Penguin Books (first published 1980)
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Samadrita
It's startling when I collide into a book like this, one which silently commands me to follow its gaze into the abyss - within and without - and then casts a mocking glance my way, challenging me to take it apart piece by piece. Theme. Plot. Imagery. Structure. Backdrop. Sociopolitical significance.

I dare you to deploy words, sentences, phrases to probe the uncharted depths of my insight into the workings of the human psyche. I dare you to remain inoculated against the power of this terrible and
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Adina
3.5* rounded up to 4* for now.

I read this as part of the The Mookse and the Gripes project to revisit the 1980 Booker Prize Shortlist. It is the first book I read from the shortlist and I cannot compare it with the other selections.

I usually write a review right after I finish a book but this time I needed to wait for a while as I did not exactly know how I felt about this novel. While at the beginning I did not feel any connection with the writing it slowly grew on me and I ended up agreeing w
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Hugh
This is my final book from the 1980 Booker shortlist and possibly the one that surprised me most. Its strengths are quiet ones - at heart it is a family story in which very little happens - indeed the Hindu family at its heart is part of the Old Delhi owning class, for whom work was not always a necessity. The book deals with siblings orphaned and parted at the time of the partition of India, and specifically the relationship between Bim, who has remained at home partly to look after a younger b ...more
Mala
This is a sad book made sadder by the possibility that such fictional families might actually exist anywhere in the world.
A family is one's anchor; sometimes it also becomes the millstone around one's neck: filling the one who goes out & ahead in the world with chronic guilt and the one who is left behind with lasting resentment. Desai's small unit, torn apart, standing in for a nation partitioned & unable to come to terms with its loss. The emotional poignancy & an astute evocation
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Rachel Rueckert
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
I read this book as part of my directed readings course I'm taking here in India, but unlike the other books, this one was written by a women, and also unlike the other books, this one was much less focused on India and much more focused on family and everyday life.

In a way I found it kind of refreshing. Yes, it was about the Partition of India, but it was also about the partition of a family. It had a very Forest Gump feel to it. History happened, like the assassination of Gandhi, but it was me
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Lobstergirl
Jan 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Manuel Valls
Shelves: fiction

This novel about four siblings in pre- and post-partition India grew on me. The opening pages were so slow, so atmospheric, the setting of Old Delhi was hot and dusty....these are all qualities I often find intolerable. Desai is a quality writer. Objectively, this is a high quality novel. Family relationships are beautifully limned, atmospheres are so well described you feel like you are in the house or on the lawn with the Das siblings. Rarely have the gestures and expressions of cats and dogs
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Jonathan Pool
A bit dull and one paced. That's rather damning about a book set in Delhi at the time of Partition. India at its most fascinating and contradictory.
Clear Light of Daypores over sibling rivalries and the often unspoken tensions in extended families.
Ultimately I felt that Anita Desai finished the book with a confused message. The central figure, Bimla, recalls TS Eliot:
"Time the destroyer is time the preserver". She does so, listening to a musical recital at a neighbour's centred around Mulk, a fi
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Nicole
This is not, I admit, a mode that I enjoy much anymore -- very serious, lyrical, the uncovering of past tragedies and hurts, lots of interior family dynamics. Never a playful moment, never a wink or a laugh, or even much joy. On the other hand, this book does this mode as well as or better than any I've seen, so I have to give the author credit: she knows what she is about. The interest of the book grows, also, over time; layers and layers of complexity are revealed and draw you in just as you t ...more
Julie Christine
This is a beautiful, tender drama about familial love and loyaly, coping and forgiveness. It tells the story of contemporary India and the impact of political turmoil & civil war on a family, the plummet into mental illness and how a family copes to protect and take care of its own. Desai is a wonderful story teller- I could feel the moist heat of India as I peered through the dim, heavy interiors of the family compound, hear the tropical birds nesting in the overgrown, decaying garden as I ...more
Neil
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If this book is on your reading list, I recommend you promptly remove it. This is a meandering tale of people, families and a country, all falling apart. While this theme alone could have had much potential, in Desai's hands it turns into a meditation on hopelessness and depression. The book might be lyrical or technically well put together but it leaves the reader feeling empty and the words never take on any greater meaning or provide any greater experience than their own shabby existence on t ...more
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The Mookse and th...: 1980 Shortlist: Clear Light of Day 9 21 Apr 04, 2017 06:21AM  
500 Great Books B...: Clear Light of Day - Anita Desai 5 31 Aug 06, 2015 10:37PM  
Clear Light of Day 1 4 Jan 17, 2015 04:36PM  
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Anita Desai was born in 1937. Her published works include adult novels, children's books and short stories. She is a member of the Advisory Board for English of the National Academy of Letters in Delhi and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in London. Anita Mazumdar Desai is an Indian novelist and Emeritus John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technolo ...more
More about Anita Desai...
“Although it was shadowy and dark, Bim could see as well as by the clear light of day that she felt only love and yearning for them all, and if there were hurts, these gashes in her side that bled, then it was only because her love was imperfect and did not encompass them thoroughly enough, and because it had flaws and inadequacies and did not extend to all equally.” 3 likes
“Quick, nervy and jumpy -yet to the children she was as constant as a staff, a tree that can be counted on not to pull up its root and shift in the night. She was the tree that grew in the centre of their lives and in whose shade they lived.” 2 likes
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