A Life Apart, By Neel Mukherjee

Cultural dislocation with a spot of arms dealing thrown in
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The Independent Culture

After the sudden death of his parents, Ritwik Ghosh leaves Calcutta on a scholarship to Oxford.

He finds Britain a depressing place, and – perhaps to make sense of his experience – begins to write a fictional biography of an Englishwoman living in colonial India whose feelings of cultural dislocation mirror his own. Neel Mukherjee deftly interweaves the two stories, and it is a conceit which works beautifully at first. As things progress, he introduces too many new themes – Ritwik becomes embroiled in everything from sex trafficking to, improbably, the international arms trade – and thus spoils the novel's delicate balance. But there is a freshness and energy to this debut that hints of greater things to come.