Book of the week: The Living by Anjali Joseph
The author finds profundity in the mundane in this story of two shoemakers
CliffsNotes: Through laconic personal narratives, Anjali Joseph shapes the disconnected lives of the novel’s two protagonists – Claire, a 35-year-old single mother employed at a near-extinct shoe factory in Norwich and Arun, a sixty-something chappal-maker from Kohlapur. Only connected by their trade, Claire and Arun navigate the mundane and the tragic, with little bursts of levity. Joseph leaves out the noise in this restrained probe of moral complexities, parent-child relationships and the passage of time.
Get a taste: I woke up aching, with a sore throat. My back hurt. That doesn’t normally happen. I was having a dream. Brad Pitt came to start at the factory. I had to show him around. We ended up in bed. But people kept breaking into the room to talk to him. They wouldn’t behave normally. Brad and I sat in bed discussing it, how people couldn’t just be normal, couldn’t be human. Who’d have thought Brad would be so sensible?
Author 101: The creative writing graduate from The University of East Anglia (where she studied under novelist Amit Chaudhuri) emerged as a voice to watch with her promising debut novel Saraswati Park (2008), the story of a letter-writer whose insipid life takes a turn after the arrival of his gay nephew. Her second novel, Another Country (2012), once again, favoured the unremarkable in its portrayal of urban middle-class youth; it was longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize.
Fun fact: Anjali Joseph previously worked as a journalist in Mumbai, and held the post of commissioning editor at ELLE India magazine.
Similar reads: Home by Manju Kapur, The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi