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The Age of Shiva: A Novel Hardcover – February 17, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (February 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393065693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393065695
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,137,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The second novel from Suri (The Death of Vishnu) follows Meera Sawhney from her unhappy 1950s marriage to aspiring singer Dev Arora through to her own son's coming-of-age. After an impulsive act forces Meera's marriage at 17, her complex, controlling father decries her tying herself (and, by extension, her family) to the provincial, lower-class Aroras. Meera soon finds herself pulled in different directions by her in-laws' religious orthodoxy, her father's progressivism (which doesn't run deep), her husband's self-pitying alcoholism and her own resentment. She finds salvation in the birth of a son, Ashvin; mother love, which Suri describes in intensely physical terms, gives her life passion and purpose, and overwhelms her adult relationships. But as India modernizes, Meera senses that Ashvin, and she herself, must live their own lives. Suri renders Meera's perspective marvelously, especially in small particulars (such as Meera's deliberations around the cutting of Ashvin's hair) and in the perils and conflicts Meera faces in her relationships with men. He also takes a close look at Hindu practices and charts the rise of religious nationalism in the years following Gandhi's death. Suri's vivid portrait of a woman in post-independence India engages timeless themes of self-determination.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Manil Suri’s debut novel, The Death of Vishnu (PEN/Faulkner Award nominee, 2002), satirized families in a single apartment building in Bombay. The Age of Shiva, about women’s subjugation, postindependence Indian politics, and Hindu-Muslim conflicts, offers a more panoramic view of Indian society. A few critics compared it to Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, but The Age of Shiva is a smaller, tighter work, ambitious in scope if not as wholly successful. Written as a letter from Meera to her son, the novel shines with luminous prose, Hindu myths, and mother-child bonds, but bogs down as it chronicles the decades. Most critics agreed, however, that Suri effectively portrays Meera as the embodiment of an India caught between tradition and modernization.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Manil Suri does a fantastic job in describing the feelings and emotions.
Sachin R. Chandra
There's no question that Suri can write well and manage characters, but this book just didn't give me enough to make me warm to it.
S. A. Waggoner
By the time I got through half the book, I found the main character so despicable and illogical.
Shaia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By didi02453 on June 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was very excited to see a new novel by Manil Suri, since I was completely taken by his first novel, "Death of Vishnu." The novel is completely focused on the female protagonist, Meera... including every nuance of her thoughts and feelings. And although individual sections are well-written (when Suri writes about food cooking, you can almost smell the chapattis... ), the book moves very slowly. And most striking for me.... I found her completely inappropriate relationship with her son... well, creepy.

"Death of Vishnu" was an extraordinary novel. To me, "Age of Shiva" is just another Indian novel which leaves the reader feeling sad and sorry for most if not all of the characters.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lins TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've been anxiously awaiting the publication of "The Age of Shiva" by Manil Suri, because I was a huge fan of "The Death of Vishnu", his first novel. And while it's interesting and well paced, I had a hard time sympathizing with any of the characters, particularly the narrator/protagonist, Meera. From the beginning she continually makes horrifically self-destructive choices in her life. Every single time. Early on she is coerced into a tragic choice and then spends years blaming others for that decision that was ultimately hers to make.

Throughout her life Meera tries to take a stand for strength and reason in her life, only to capitulate every time to her husband, father, brother-in-law, or son. Frustratingly she by-passes every opportunity to say "no" and then finds herself in a mess and whines about being "powerless". Her motivations for making the stupid choices again and again just aren't made clear. Ironically, in the end it's her inability to make a resolve and then follow through with a plan that saves her life.

Despite my consternation I realize that Meera is likely to be an allegory for the country India herself. (Similar to Rushdie's "Midnight's Children") I am not educated enough on Indian history and politics to agree or disagree with the comparison. I will leave that to savvier critics. But reading about India, the culture, the religious identities, the Partition and the Emergency was very interesting and informative.

In addition to frustration with Meera's passivity, there is the entirely inappropriate relationship with her son. If you cringe in the beginning reading her sexually-charged descriptions of breastfeeding, well, that's only a foreshadowing, so be warned.

And still, it held my interest to the end, so I'm giving it 3 stars.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Partition, Indian Independence and war with Pakistan serve as a dramatic background for this tale of happily-ever-after turned bitter disappointment as Meera finds herself wed to Dev, a young man infatuated with her older sister, Roopa. Thanks to her naive miscalculations, the new bride leaves a comfortable home with a domineering father and religiously devout mother for the humble quarters of her in-laws. Not only is Dev as immature as he is handsome, but his older married brother casts covetous eyes on the newest member of the household. Raised in a male-dominated society, an unfair tug-of-war between a conditionally generous father and young husband who desires a singing career, Meera succumbs to pressure, making a fateful decision that alters her life and poisons her marriage, deeply unhappy until the birth of her son, Ashvin.

In a society with clearly proscribed roles, Meera is torn between the secular demands of a domineering father and religiously rigid in-laws, her husband clinging to a past that fails to translate into a viable future. But it is the evolving relationship with the innocent child that colors Meera's days, petty jealousies and a yearning for unconditional love long denied, the family's struggle played out in Bombay, isolated in their tiny flat where Dev faces the loss of his dreams and war with Pakistan shatters the city. Yet there is more destruction inside the home than in a country writhing in revolution, from Nehru to Indira Ghandi; Meera's painful tread along the edge of motherhood leads to a nearly tragic denouement: "For once I would matter most in someone's life".

While the political landscape of India is changing, Meera undergoes her own revolution, thanks to the birth of her son.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David J. Goldstein on September 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In the age of Shiva, Manil Suri tells the story of several Indian families as seen through the eyes of his narrator, Meera, a widowed middle aged woman looking back on her life after her son has left home. Providing the background for this tale are the stories of creation and destruction which characterize much Indian religious thought and periodic references to historic events of the past fifty years.

This scheme gives the reader many interesting contradictions to contemplate. For example, the many descriptions of women being limited to traditional roles contrast with the descriptions of Indira Gandhi's control over the country. The liberal political notions of Meera's father contrast with his actual treatment of his daughters and wife. Meera's all consuming love for her son typifies the virtues of a mother's love and is also deeply sick. The stories of Hindu deities contrast with the plots of the old movies adored by Meera.

With so many references to religion, history, and Indian popular culture and having been written by a mathematician, one is sure that these references must be purposeful and that there is an underlying structure that, if understood, would illuminate the book's symbolism.

Unfortunately, however, I, at least, failed to discover that underlying structure. Although the many references and allusions lead you to look for greater meaning; in the end, this appears to be a book that is only about Meera's own perceptions of her world. Perhaps this is the ultimate contradiction that the book is intended to illuminate: that although our lives appear to acquire meaning out of history, religion, politics, and culture, in the end our lives are lived on very small stages where all that matters are the relationships that we have with a few relatives and friends and our own thoughts.
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