I could see why The Shadow Lines forms part of the 1001 list. It’s got a great plot, well-defined characters, a bit of humour, a bit of pathos and some politics to boot.
Despite this I wasn’t too crazy over the book.
It is also a little bit complicated to summarise. It is , at its core, a tale about two families ; one is British and the other is Bengali. These two families have their histories entwined from the days of the Raj to modern times. Thus the reader is exposed to different customs and it’s clashes.
There’s also the political uprising which causes the death of one of the main protagonists and it’s repercussions still affect the narrator to this day. A good chunk of the novel focuses on partition and the terrifying after effects.
Not to mention that Ghosh’s writing is heartfelt and can create a sense of warmth.
So why didn’t I like it too much?
Well the aspect which bothered me was the continuous time jumping. From paragraph to paragraph we are whisked to a decade. True that by the end of the novel everything makes sense but I did get annoyed. In fact I preferred the second half of the novel as it was more clear-cut.
Plus I also tended to mix some characters up. Ghosh doesn’t do slow introductions. All the people just burst in and out of the book, it becomes a bit confusing.
I have a little feeling that if I pick up The Shadow Lines again after a couple of years I think I’ll appreciate it more.