- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Soho Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 156947558X
- ISBN-13: 978-1569475584
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,746,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Haunting Bombay Hardcover – April 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Agarwal's atmospheric if excessively detailed debut takes readers deep into the mysterious heart of Bombay in the 1960s. Thirteen-year-old Pinky Mittal lives with her obese, matriarchal grandmother, Maji; her alcoholic uncle, Jaginder; bitter aunt Savita; and three teenage male cousins. Taken in as an infant by her grandmother after her mother died, Pinky knows she's Maji's favorite, even if her aunt despises her. Driven by adolescent curiosity, Pinky unlocks a door in her family bungalow that has been bolted her entire life and unleashes the ghost of an infant girl and her midwife, sending her whole family into a tailspin. Surrounded by superstitions and spirituality, Pinky tries to unravel a past rife with pain and deceit as three generations of her formerly stalwart family crumble around her. This multigenerational family saga is rich with eccentric characters and period details, but Agarwal too often clogs the page with nonessential descriptions. (Apr.)
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It could have been all that lovely detail, I'm a sucker it. I couldn't believe Publisher's Weekly said it clogged the book. The details in Haunting Bombay do more than paint a picture, they took me on a tour of a completely different world from my own. I felt the rustle of silk across my skin, was drenched by the monsoon rain, and smelled the spiciness of afternoon tea. Not only that, but I got to feel the repression of a girl where women have few opportunities and no voice. It surprised me that the men in the story were also repressed by their culture, weighed down by their own cultural expectations and obligations.
What else kept me reading? Ms. Agarwal did a first-rate job on creating a thrilling mystery filled with spirits who are not just embellishments, but full-drawn characters in their own right. The author had real compassion for all her characters, ghosts or otherwise, and it made them so much more appealing and believable. Be careful, you may find yourself haunted by them long after you close the pages of this beautiful book. I look forward to reading more from this promising first-time author.
The novel begins with us learning about Pinky, a thirteen year old girl living with her grandmother, aunt and uncle and her three male cousins. Pinky's own mother had died when she was just a baby and her grandmother Maji had taken over her care. They are one of the lucky families that have money so Pinky has never known any suffering in that way. However all is not rosey either. Pinky's aunt does not like her at all for reasons of her own and if not for Maji, who is the head of the family, Pinky would be off in a boarding school.
All her life Pinky has wondered about the bathroom in their house though. It is bolted up nightly and not opened until morning. They are all forbidden to unbolt it yet no one will tell her why. Well one day Pinky becomes upset enough to throw caution to the wind and unbolt that door. By doing this Pinky unlocks secrets from the past along with a ghost bent on getting revenge. From this point things go from bad to worse in the Mittal household taking us on a suspense filled journey right up to the final twist at the end that I wasn't quite expecting.
There are many things I enjoyed about this novel aside from the ghost story and all the suspenseful elements. I enjoyed reading about the Indian lifestyle a great deal. There are a lot of descriptions of the way the wealthy live and what they are privilege to, their religion, the area itself, and mostly the food. There were so many descriptions of the food they eat that my mouth was watering at how good it all sounded. I felt as though I got carried away to another world which I really did as their lives in India are so much more different than mine and I loved that aspect of the book. It was also interesting to read how much different men and women are treated and how many more opportunities are available to the men.
If I had to say I had a favorite character it would be Pinky. For a young girl she really seemed quite mature in her thoughts and reasoning except of course for opening that forbidden door. However all the characters were well developed even the ghosts and you find yourself caring about them and what their lives had once entailed. I found the book beautifully written and found myself rereading many passages. This is Shilpa Agarwal's debut novel and if it's any indication of her writing style then I'm anxious for what she will write next.
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The Mittal household, living in a rambling bungalow in the old colonial...Read more