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on August 12, 2009
If I were to speak of this book in one word it would be "stunning" which is a word so overused in reviews that it almost means nothing but I mean it literally. At the end, I was absolutely stunned and it took awhile to recover from the final twist.

I am also overwhelmed by its complexity, which makes it a challenge for me to review. In the tradition of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, she writes a novel that questions, critiques and gives loving homage to the survivors, the marginalized, the lost in her culture of origin. It is a ghost story--the ghost is a real ghost but also represents the secret that is destroying the Mittal family. This family exists and is also haunted by the remains of British colonialism in the late 1940's, post-partition.

There is a strong feminist vein and the white feminist American reader (that would be me) may be tempted to be very critical of the ways tradition has marginalized some women, the very poor and those who cannot meet traditional heterosexual norms* in India; however, I believe we should be doing that with our own culture first--then looking at what is similar and what is different--for there is something very universal and deeply human about her themes and characters. I will read this book again, knowing the secret that is drives the core of the book, with new insights the characters' motives and decisions.
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on October 12, 2017
I liked it because it was so authentic. I had to stop and look up every few lines a word that was unfamiliar to me but I loved feeling like I was a fly on the wall in a traditional Indian household. The story was also told in a fashion that was so different from ordinary ghost stories.,
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on October 10, 2016
"Haunting Bombay" took a couple of chapters to grab my attention. But once it did, I stayed up all night reading it. It is so rich in details, I felt completely transported to India. I could smell the rain and taste the chutney. Characters are well developed and the story is full of unexpected twists, and rich with quirky details that make it fully come alive. A wonderful summer read.
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on July 25, 2015
At first I thought it would be not very good. Later, after about 50 pages, I really got in to it. I would hesitate to recommend it to people in general as I don't know if this novel is for everyone.
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on May 29, 2009
First ordered this book as a sample on my Kindle while looking for books to save for an upcoming trip. After reading the sample, I immediately purchased the whole book, and couldn't put it down until it was finished. Written with humor and insight into Indian life along with fantasy. If you enjoy reading, don't miss this entertaining and well-written story. I'll be looking forward to more books by this author.
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on March 5, 2012
Beautiful book. Kept me intrigued until the last word. Although I don't believe in ghosts but I believed while reading this book. Love Indian novels and this one didn't disappoint.
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Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal is exactly that - a very haunting and engrossing novel with a very gorgeous cover. I am always up for a good ghost story and this book definitely fit the bill for me. From the beginning of the book I was hooked and I just kept turning those pages in an attempt to find out what was going to finally happen. It was a book that kept me on the edge of my seat a bit while giving me shivers up and down my spine.

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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on April 5, 2009
After cracking this book, my plans for the day were shot. I stayed up until early morning to finish it.

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.
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on March 20, 2010
I think of 'Haunting Bombay' just about everyday - wondering about the Mittals and how their lives have progressed. When a story, a family of characters, a piece of their lives remains with a reader long after the last page, this is how I know that story - fiction or non-fiction - will become a presence of great importance in my own life. Have you met the Mittals? Yes? Then you know how they they changed you.

'Haunting Bombay'changed me too. At one moment I was wandering their Bombay and found them, a real and vividly drawn family. I stood near their door and Shilpa Agarwal took me inside. Wisely, she set me in a dark corner; she knew I would never interrupt them and she always knew I wasn't alone. And they never saw me - yet I was there the whole time and I knew I would come to know them well. When my time was done and I had to leave, it was almost impossible until I realized they still belonged to me. I had left them intact but I was better for having been there; touched deeply by having watched and listened. And by the discovery and the individual prices they paid to be part of it all.

Read this book. You will be haunted. You will thank me.
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on February 19, 2018
I felt transported to the 1940/50 landscapes of Mumbai. Even though it was well before my time, the writing stirred images and understanding in me of the times and people. Thanks for this amazing experience through words!
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