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The Far Field

by Madhuri Vijay

Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel Literary Fiction Modern and Contemporary Fiction Relationship Stories Sharing Diverse Voices Star Books

LoveReading View on The Far Field

Thirty-year-old Shalini has lived a privileged life, but one beset by uncertainty. She was her erratic mother’s “little beast” and is struggling to come to terms with her tragic death. Adrift from work and the wider world, Shalini journeys to find Bashir, a travelling salesman she and her mother befriended through her childhood, tentatively hoping this will provide some understanding of her mother’s death.

As Shalini’s journey unfolds in the present, a second narrative reveals her past with raw poignancy. On the road, Shalini’s faltering need to belong somewhere is revealed through her romantic imaginings of being part of a stranger’s family. And then, in Bashir’s remote Himalayan village, she becomes caught in a complex political situation, with the tangled conflict between her heart and conscience made powerfully palpable. While she feels “I had chosen this place, these people, this life, with its secrets and its violence, it’s hardness and its beauty”, Shalini recognises that she’s thrown Bashir’s family “into disarray with my invasion and my probing questions”.

The writing is so exquisitely magnetic that I struggled to draw myself away from it, especially as Shalini’s story rose to an unexpected, pulse-quickening climax. This is the rare kind of novel that lingers long in the heart and mind, like a dream one feels compelled to return to. 

Joanne Owen

The Far Field Synopsis


An elegant, epic debut novel that follows one young woman's search for a lost figure from her childhood, a journey that takes her from Southern India to Kashmir and to the brink of a devastating political and personal reckoning.

In the wake of her mother's death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir's politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.

With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt and the limits of compassion.

Cosmo's one of the best books by BAME writers to get excited about in 2019 Longlisted for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

The Far Field Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

A powerful book that takes you into uncharted territory. A story of bravery and danger, love and loathing, that shows how our actions can influence the lives of others. Full review

christine woolfenden

A book about grief and trying to find your way, and the impact one person can have on many. Full review

Tracey Thomas

Shalini’s journey from Bangalore to Kashmir, to track down an old friend of her mother’s, has repercussions for both herself and her Kashmiri friends that will stay with you for a long time. A stunning first novel. Full review

Alison Burns

A beautifully written, thought-provoking book following Shalini, a young woman dealing with the death of her mother, on her journey from Bangalore to Kashmir and the far-reaching impact her actions have on other people. Full review

Tracey Poulter

A stunningly beautiful, emotional, and captivating novel that hooked me in from the very start. Never have I felt so submerged, and involved in a book. Full review

Lisa Rowsell

A seriously absorbing read which feels both familiar and foreign. I highly recommend that you lose yourself in it! Full review

Jan Payne

An engrossing debut novel skillfully interweaving both personal and political events. Full review

Val Rowe

The Far Field Press Reviews

An impressive debut. -- Layla Haidrani - Cosmopolitan

The Far Field is remarkable, a novel at once politically timely and morally timeless. Madhuri Vijay traces the fault lines of history, love, and obligation running through a fractured family and country. Few novels generate enough power to transform their characters, fewer still their readers. The Far Field does both. -- Anthony Marra I am in awe of Madhuri Vijay. With poised and measured grace, The Far Field tells a story as immediate and urgent as life beyond the page. I will think of these characters - tender and complex, mysterious and flawed, remarkably real to me - for years to come, as though I have lived alongside them -- Anna Noyes I had to remind myself while reading The Far Field that this is the work of a debut novelist, and not a mid-career book by a master writer... Such is the power of Vijay's writing that I finished the book feeling like I'd lived it. Only the very best novels are experienced, as opposed to merely read, and this is one of those rare and brilliant novels. -- Ben Fountain Vivid...[THE FAR FIELD explores] complicated themes of parental fealty, identity, and religious schism...a striking debut. - Kirkus

Vijay intertwines her story's threads with dazzling skill. Dense, layered, impossible to pin - or put - down, her first novel is an engrossing tale of love and grief, politics and morality. Combining up-close character studies with finely plotted drama, this is a triumphant, transporting debut. - Booklist,STARRED REVIEW* with big questions - Indian politics, class, history and sexuality - through beautiful prose. - Huffington Post UK

Stunning....Vijay's remarkable debut novel is an engrossing narrative of individual angst played out against political turmoil. - Publishers Weekly

Consuming... Vijay's command of storytelling is so supple that it's easy to discount the stealth with which she constructs her tale. - New York Times Book Review

Vijay's descriptions of the mountains, the people and their everyday lives are beautiful, and that makes the hidden ugliness all the more disturbing; this is a seriously impressive debut. - The Times

Vijay probes grand themes - tribalism, despotism, betrayal, death, resurrection - in exquisite but unflowery prose, and with sincere sentiment but little sentimentality. - New Yorker

Shalini's quest to understand her mother's life makes for a remarkable story, and Vijay is likely to be a talent to watch. - Financial Times

For the vast majority of us, who hear of the troubles in Kashmir only as a faint strain in the general din of world tragedies, The Far Field offers something essential: a chance to glimpse the lives of distant people captured in prose gorgeous enough to make them indelible - and honest enough to make them real. - Washington Post

The Far Field is an irresistible blend of moral subtlety and intellectual precision. Ingeniously conceived and elegantly written, it is a first novel of startling accomplishment. -- Pankaj Mishra a powerful meditation on the chaos of good intentions...a masterful piece of fiction. -- Nikesh Shukla - Observer

Vijay's mastery of traditional narrative skills wouldn't be out of place in a classic 19th century novel...The Far Field is an impressive performance. It will be fascinating to see what Vijay does next. - Sunday Times

A courageous, insightful and and affecting debut novel - and the winner of the prestigious JCB Prize for Indian literature - which places a naive upper-class woman from southern India in the midst of far messier realities in Kashmir. Along the way, the story challenges Indian taboos ranging from sex to politics. - The Economist Books of the Year

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781611854831
Publication date: 02/01/2020
Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781611856323
Publication date: 04/07/2019
Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781611854831
Publication date: 2nd January 2020
Author: Madhuri Vijay
Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 464 pages
Genres: Reader Reviewed Books, Literary Fiction, Modern and Contemporary Fiction, Relationship Stories, Diverse Voices, Star Books,
Collections: 50+ Novels That Explore the Wonders of Asia, Our Favourite Books of 2020, 50+ Beautifully Written Books,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Family & relationships,

About Madhuri Vijay

Madhuri Vijay was born in Bangalore. The Far Field is her first book.

More About Madhuri Vijay

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