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A River Sutra Paperback – June 28, 1994

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 28, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679752471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679752479
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This deft and delightful novel depicts the life and culture on the banks the Indian river Narmada.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A sequence of delicate, tragic stories by the author of Raj (S. & S., 1989) evokes the profound presence of tradition and desire along the banks of the holy river Narmada. A retired bureaucrat, initially ignorant of the river's bright and dark powers, hears these stories as he encounters their protagonists: a privileged young executive bewitched by a mysterious lover; a neophyte Jain monk moving from opulence to poverty; and an intense ascetic who resurfaces in a surprising reincarnation. For all the horror and passion of the tales, the bureaucrat remains little moved until book's end. Readers too may be more intrigued and edified than moved. As in folktale, the stories' dynamics dominate their characters, who serve primarily to illustrate cultural and religious forces. For public libraries, particularly where an interest in things Indian is strong.
- Janet Ingraham, Wor thington P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

It was like something written for a child, maybe it is.
Mehta shows true talent through her writing in this book, but her real strength lies in her ability to paint such clear images using only words.
The novel explores the different stages of love and does this through a series of short stories linked by the narrator.
Preat Kansal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Richard Wells on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
"A River Sutra" is the third Gita Mehta book I've read. Previous to this I enjoyed "Karma Cola" and "Snakes and Ladders." As a non-fiction writer, Ms. Mehta is lean, sharp, caustic, and witty. She gets to the heart of the matter, and doesn't hold off on personal opinion. I didn't know what to expect from her fiction, but I was surprised. She seems like a different writer. A gentle side comes through "A River Sutra" that leaves you feeling deeply for the characters she's created. It's not that the stories are fluff, they're not; it is that she employs a lyricism that was unexpected. The river is the Narmada, one of the holiest in India; and, a sutra is both a thread, and a discourse that constantly unwinds. This aptly named book is a study of love, and another look at India - sometimes fanciful, sometimes frightening, but always warm hearted.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "zara_azari" on March 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
I had to buy this book for my Asian literature class at the university. But when the quarter had come to its end, I did not want to sell it (which is what I do with so many other books). This book took my breath away, while I was reading it for the first time, and it still does, because I re-read it at least once a month. If I don't have time to read it all or when I feel down, I just open up any passage at random and read couple of sentences. The beauty of River Sutra is very much in the hands of its author, Gita Mehta, I must say. I have read many books about India (books, where India has been a subject of a fiction, as it is in this case), but River Sutra is not just another book that shows India in a hopelessly romantic way. At first, it may seem as such, because the author does employ magical realism and romanticism in her work. However, if you read it more than once, you will start feeling the power of the narration in a completely different way... You will realize that it is not JUST A ROMANTIC FICTION about oh-so-romantic country... For me, reading this book, in itself, sounds like a mantra (subject, touched on in the book, by the way). Stylistically, Mehta rises to the level of incomparable "1000 and 1 nights" and I have not seen too many contemporary Eastern authors being able to do that. But, what's even more amazing is, that she also manages to bring her work to a modern and a very universal perspective. I hope Mehta keeps writing, and I also hope that one day I have a full collection of her works!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elliot Knapp on December 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
As an undergraduate student of comparative religions I've become gradually acquainted with the complex mosaic that is multireligious India. For an area that saw the birth of Buddhism, Vedic Brahmanism, Jainism and Classical Indian Theism (aka "Hinduism") as well as one that was historically also home to ancient Jewish, later Christian, and one of the largest populations of Muslims in the world, a lot of people in the west know very little about the rich cultural, religious and social history of the Indian subcontinent. This book is not only an excellent, accurate portrayal of the variegated cultural situation in India, it's also an engaging, well-written, compelling collection of short stories that stands on its own as a work of fiction.

Mehta tells the story of a retired government official who now resides on one of the largest and holiest rivers in India. The official was never a religious man, but now that he has a chance to relax and observe his surroundings, he is able to take in the diversity around him and start his own query into the spiritual side of life. Using this frame, Mehta illustrates the official's encounters with numerous characters who, each in turn, tell their stories to the retired official. As the collection progresses, he encounters many characters, including a Jain mendicant, a Muslim music teacher, a wandering ascetic, a courtesan seeking her kidnapped daughter, a virtuoso sitar player, and a tea plantation official who has encountered Nagas. Throughout, Mehta uses each character to explore different religious themes that are represented in India and weaves them all into a cohesive search for spiritual truth, all with a surprising ending that will make you want to re-read the whole book just so you can try to understand.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 15, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gita Mehta's "A River Sutra" came highly recommendedby a friend and I'm grateful for it 'cos I found it a delightful andenjoyable read. The River Narmada is the perfect metaphor for Mehta's representation of the rich complexities of spiritual and mythical life throughout the ages. The narrator, a retired bureaucrat, begins his journey of discovery into the soul of his country by the holy river where he encounters a myriad of colourful characters and situations altogether unfamiliar to him. By taking refuge up at the rest house, he seeks escape from life but realises finally that he has "chosen the wrong place to flee the world" because "too many lives converge on the banks of the River Narmada". Fittingly, his awakening takes place by the holy river, which in Mehta's words "is an unbroken record of the human race". The main message seems to be that conscious escape from life is self defeating. Meaning flows from life, without which all search for spiritual fulfillment is fruitless. Food for thought. Mehta's language is beautifully poetic and lyrical but never obscure. Like many Indian writers, she too dabbles a little in magical realism which only adds colour to the enchanting stories spilling out of the river. A truly delightful novel. END
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