Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The City of Devi: A Novel Paperback – September 3, 2013
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Our heroine Sarita is on a mission to find her husband, who has disappeared during a curious conference and may be in danger. She's a bit of a prima donna, yet fiercely focused on her journey as she is saved from one catastrophe by a different catastrophe. Sarita is nonplussed by the panoply of pandemonia she encounters: gangs, ground warfare, imminent nuclear annihilation, a literal crazy train, elephants, circus cults, never enough Marmite, a Wizard, particle physics, an absurd aquarium, train derailments (both literal and figurative), a levitating mascot, glow-in-the-dark saris, floods and a tourist version of Noah's Ark, all tied to the rising price of pomegranates.
I enjoyed the book's "normal" first section, especially the scenes of Sarita and Karun attempting to consummate their marriage of two years. (Ominously, their wedding coincided with the beginning of the war.) These scenes are not carnal; instead, they are imaginative and full of inventive uses of yoga and gaming. These moments impart a quiet beauty in the midst of a nascent chaos. But then Sarita boards that crazy train, and the real fantasy train wreck begins.
The City of Devi got particularly arduous for me in the last quarter. I forced myself to finish the book just to see who lives and who dies. So perhaps Manil Suri was successful in creating an anxiety in me about the characters, that I should care even that much. Or perhaps I was just anxious that ANY of the characters would survive.
I think that is what makes the book work and makes it so clever: if you can believe in the story of impending nuclear destruction, the cartoonesque mass hysteria over Superdevi, the loss of believable news sources and the advanced communal warfare in the streets of Mumbai, well then it is really not too hard to believe the story of Ijaz, predatory gay lover of the shy physicist Karun, or the gentle love story of Karun and his bride Sarita who settle into a loving not necessarily sexually active but playful and tender marriage.
In the book the story is told in turns by both Sarita and Ijaz and describes their search for Karun, who has disappeared to the north for unspecified reasons. Sarita does not know that the Muslim guy who latches onto her in her search for her husband was her husband's lover for years before she met him . Ijaz (the Jazter) knows who she is and that she is the only way he can find Karun.
Their stories are interlaced with flashbacks of both of their romances with Karun, until they reach the place where he is and they manage to find him and Karun joins them in their near mythical fight against the evil leaders. At the same time Sarita finally finds out her husband is gay and Ijaz is her lover so that requires a certain amount of repositioning from all of them.
If earlier on the book has a mythical feel of the journey and the search, once they get to Juhu Beach it becomes a full blown grotesque and apocalyptic movie and verges on satire, though to call it a comedy the way some of the critics did, seems to be taking it a little far. It reminds me of some of Gore Vidal's dystopian books like Messiah and Kalki, although Vidal's works lack the antidote of Love. There is even an undercurrent of the Wizard of Oz and in its echoes of that and so many other narratives it is a really good book while sometimes being quite (intentionally) preposterous at the same time. Not to mention the fact that Ijaz sees himself as Jaz Bond some times, which definitely would qualify as comic relief.
The end of the story has a certain predictability or maybe inevitability to it that you have to be willing to go along with but if you can, if you do, the suspension of disbelief can be a great thing.
"The City of Devi" opens from Sarita's perspective as she warily leaves home in a desperate bid to find Karun. The narrative progresses in two alternating threads: the contemporary search with its attendant dangers and the history of Sarita's and Karun's romance. Sarita recounts how she met and wooed her husband with an earnestness and vulnerability that's utterly endearing.
About 100 pages in, the perspective shifts. A second character, Ijaz, takes over the narration (subsequent sections alternate between Sarita and Ijaz). Mirroring the first section, the narrative alternates between Ijaz searching for his love interest and their history together. As narrator, Ijaz's tone fundamentally differs from Sarita's. He utilizes humor and brashness. He refers to himself in the third person as "the Jazter" - an apt illustration of how he views and conducts himself. He affects a glibness that's not entirely genuine as he proves to be quite introspective as well. Whereas I found Ijaz an equally compelling and likable protagonist, his narration was a little more abrasive and less enjoyable overall (primarily due to his relentless emphasis on sex).
Their respective searches bring Sarita and Ijaz together. Complicating their journey is the fact that Sarita is Hindu while Ijaz, despite his lack of personal devotion, is Muslim. As they overcome various trials and tribulations together, at least one of them knows their motives are incompatible.
While the interested reader can dissect the text for commentary on religion, sexuality, war and other topics, on its face, "The City of Devi" is a love story... a daring and convoluted love story. It features an impressive representation of religious and cultural struggles in India (and the broader world) and a faithful knowledge of its traditions and contemporary society. I was a little disappointed that the book was so rigidly secular. I would have appreciated a little more mythical or magical content but author Manil Suri chose to confront the world he created in a realistic fashion. As a consequence, the ending is necessarily bleak. He presents some philosophical considerations that, I suspect, aspire to a form of redemption, but it's not entirely successful. The novel is quite good - humorous, endearing, and suspenseful by turns - but it also drags at times. In the acknowledgements, the author admits to "slogging at [the manuscript]" over a period of time. The reader shares the burden of this cross because some sections could have been omitted or trimmed without detracting from the story in any way. Whatever its shortcomings, though, "The City of Devi" is an impressive novel.
As a final note, Suri's talents as a writer are formidable. His prose was lyrical yet erudite. His eloquent use of metaphor was frequently striking. He's an author worth following.