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Friday, November 06, 2009

Haunting Bombay

Agarwal, Shilpa.  Haunting Bombay.

The story of the Mittal family is a ghost story, but not a Western ghost story.  Thoroughly grounded in the atmosphere of Bombay (now Mumbai) and Hindu myth and religion, the ghost is both a supernatural and psychological phenomenon.

I found myself intrigued for a while, but as the story began to spin wider, I was less enchanted.  I've tried to figure out why that was so, but haven't successfully determined just what went wrong for me.

Essentially, it may be that my idea of a ghost story and of myth are so Westernized that the differences made it difficult to suspend disbelief.  As I've mentioned before, I'm not a great fan of magical realism and some of that quality is present in the book.

The writing and characterization are quite good, but the consequences of the original death spread so wide, with so many ripples, that Pinky's story is drastically diminished.  She becomes a device rather than a character.  Maji, the grandmother, has a role that rises and falls and ultimately offers the explanation.  She might deserve a book of her own.

I did enjoy the novel, and there was no way that I'd have abandoned it, but in the end, I didn't love it.

Fiction.  Supernatural/Psychological.  2009.  359 pages.


  1. That's too bad that you didn't love it. It does have a nice cover, though

  2. Great review. Maybe that's why I have a hard enjoying books from China, I'm too grounded in Western civilization. Mmmm, food for thought.

  3. Kailana - I did enjoy it, but for some reason, I became more and more distanced from both characters and action. It is a nice cover, I agree!

    Framed - The baby ghost particularly bothered me...just couldn't get my head around that one. There was a certain unfairness about the situations of the ghosts that gave me problems. Even looking at the situations psychologically didn't overcome my resistance to the presentation of the ghosts.

  4. uh oh. I was going to read this next year. It doesn't sound like something I would like so maybe I will forget it.