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A Life Apart by Neel Mukherjee

A Life Apart

Neel Mukherjee

Literary Fiction   Debuts of the Month   
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One of our Debuts of the Year 2011.

February 2011 Debut of the Month.

A Life Apart is a scalding novel about dislocations and alienations, about the tenuous and unconscious intersections of lives and histories and about the consolations of storytelling.

If you like Neel Mukherjee you might also like to read books by Vikas Swarup, Amitav Ghosh and Vikrem Seth.


A Life Apart by Neel Mukherjee

Ritwik Ghosh, twenty-two and recently orphaned, finds the chance to start a new life when he arrives in England from Calcutta. But to do so, he must not only relive his entire past but also make sense of his relationship with his mother - scarred, abusive and all-consuming. But Oxford holds little of the salvation Ritwik is looking for. Instead he moves to London, where he drops out of official existence into a shadowy hinterland of illegal immigrants. However, the story that Ritwik writes to stave off his loneliness - a Miss Gilby who teaches English, music and Western manners to the wife of a liberal zamindar - begins to find ghostly echoes in his life with his aged landlady, Anne Cameron. But then, one night, in the badlands of King's Cross, Ritwik runs into the suave, unfathomable Zafar bin Hashm. As present and past of several lives collide, Ritwik's own goes into free fall.


A brilliant first novel... shockingly good. -- Rose Tremain Daily Telegraph The writing... has a sculptured clarity. Assured and fearless... This is subtle, precise writing that penetrates character and motive with astringent humour. -- Helen Dunmore The Times Incisive and poetic, sensual and intelligent, a novel with great breadth, heart and courage. Ali Smith There are a lot of subtle cultural ironies in Neel Mukherjee's debut novel, which is what makes the book such a delight ... A Life Apart is an elegant and accomplished debut, a novel of many shades. It blends the poignancy of a coming-of-age story with the rawer excitements of an urban thriller laced with sex and violence. The Sunday Telegraph Mukherjee deftly interweaves the worlds of the arms trade, sex workers, fruit pickers and the Daily Mail, while also casting a light on the economic policies of the Raj, communal violence and the fragility of relationships conducted under the glare of history. But he never loses sight of his characters and their emotional upheaval. The growing tension is expertly handled, the ending unsurprising yet completely devastating. The Guardian Rich and nuanced ... Mukherjee is excellent on what motivates people to act the way they do. Daily Telegraph Impressive...Mukherjee writes wryly and wonderfully...deeply engaging and brilliantly observed. Indpendent Ambitious and subtly written. Sunday Times Fascinating. Woman There is a freshness and energy to this debut that hints of greater things to come. Independent on Sunday Impressively assured debut. Irish Times Beautifully written. Good Book Guide

About the Author

Neel Mukherjee

Neel Mukherjee was born in Calcutta and educated in Calcutta, Oxford, and Cambridge. He reviews fiction for The Times and Time Magazine Asia and has written for the TLS, the Daily Telegraph, the Observer, the New York Times, the Boston Review, the Sunday Telegraph and Biblio. He is also a contributing editor to the Boston Review. He divides his time between London and the USA. A Life Apart is his first novel.

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Book Info

Publication date

27th January 2011


Neel Mukherjee

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Corsair an imprint of Constable and Robinson


416 pages


Literary Fiction
Debuts of the Month