The Age of Shiva

The Age of Shiva

by Manil Suri

A sweeping epic that follows the fortunes of one family and the fortunes of India in the violent aftermath of Partition, 'The Age of Shiva' is the powerful story of a country in turmoil and an extraordinary portrait of maternal love.

  • Series: The Hindu Gods
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.32
  • Pages: 560
  • Publish Date: by Not Avail
  • Isbn10: 0747591792
  • Isbn13: 9780747591795

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i was hoping to really love this, since i loved his first book so much.

Which means, at certain points, The Age of Shiva touches the brilliance of V S Naipaul's A Home For Mr Biswas in portraying human despair and chaotic family life with all its colourful and despicable characters. All of this makes the book quite a compelling read. For one, Manil Suris attempt to give the book an epic scale even while keeping it intimate is not always convincing. The story's main thrust is on the mother-son relationship, so the author makes the unusual but intriguing choice of having the nondescript Meera as a narrator, addressing the story to her son, Ashwin. Meera feels no particular love for Dev - though his quiet charm is attractive to her- and her decision to marry him is almost entirely driven by the fact that she managed to whisk at least one thing out of her selfish sister. It's a bitter sweet life that Meera leads here, feeling frustrated at one point and at another time warming up to the affection she receives. She sees her son as the sum total of her life, her only achievement and she would let nothing come in the way.

The Age of Shiva follows the life of Meera through her marriage to Dev, a talented musician struggling to make a living, and through the various divergences in her destiny as she aimlessly plods though her disappointments, clinging to her son as the only reason for her existence, till she finds her foothold and purpose in life. Be forewarned though, that if you dont have a poetic streak/love/inclination, you will find the writing laborious and tedious. But to me, his writing is what pulled together a regular story of a mundane life into a gorgeous and poignant work of fiction. And although there is no intense suspense or drastic turn of events, I was hooked to the book, eager to know more about a woman who kept blundering through her life. Well, I might be painting the image of a deluded romantic in love with the writing and gushing about a boring story. Although I found it extremely repulsive and reproachable to even read, after much thought, I think it makes psychological sense for Suri to have introduced this issue in this story. Suri has done a beautiful job of expressing a mothers intensity of love and her fiery instincts of possessiveness. Viewed from such a psychological point of view, and taking into account the various circumstances through which Meera and her son go through, it is understandable that the issue of Oedipal complex surfaced. I may have made the book seem disturbing (even disgusting) and full of despair, but I am not able to convey the feeling of poignancy that erases all of that and simply just moves you and lets you connect with the simple human emotions and needs pulsing through the story.

So I have had this book on my TBR stack for quite some time (2008). I guess I have to take all reviews with a grain of salt, because I loved this book!

I am not sure if other women (or mothers should I say) would find it offending, but the very fact that the author even dared to compare a breastfeeding act with an erotic scene was offensive to me. It is Meeras story of getting along with a new family with drastically different financial condition and social views, her strange relationship with her husband and more importantly the birth of her son. Meeras relationship with her son is the essence of the book and is supposed to draw parallels to Parvati and Ganesha. As suspected, Meera and her son grow close in their relationship as Avinash grows up, and in more ways than one. Is this Suris way of showing what happens in a family which does not have a father figure? In the end, all I remember about the book is the deep disgust I felt while reading the physical closeness between mother and son.

Manil Suri is an Indian-American mathematician and writer, most notable for his first novel, The Death of Vishnu. In 1995 he began writing The Death of Vishnu, a novel about social and religious tensions in India taking place in an apartment building in contemporary Mumbai.