Charlotte Bacon, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $23 (276p) ISBN 978-0-374-28185-4

A trip to India reveals long-hidden secrets and helps a daughter reconcile with her difficult mother in this intelligent, richly atmospheric second novel by Bacon (Lost Geography ). In 1992, Anna, a New York poet and grant writer, embarks on a trip to Calcutta to console herself for a double loss: the end of her marriage to a cold, ambitious man and the death of her beloved father. But the trip is largely Anna's attempt to understand her mother, Rose, a largely silent, often stingy, seemingly unloving woman, who was once "an English girl born in Calcutta, raised in its heat, its language. With no one in her household who quite understood her, the largest, whitest girl around. Seen but not known, a fearful combination." As a child, Rose was an innocent caught between the cultures of her remote, widower father and her warm Hindu caretaker, or ayah, in a society where young English girls weren't permitted to "mix" with Indians in public. But Rose's ayah showed the girl compassion and secretly took her to Indian temples and to a Holi celebration, a bacchanal where "men and children throw coloured dye at each other, and for weeks people sport magenta and green on their shirts, scalps, and hands," something forbidden by her father. As she travels, Anna reads a manuscript her mother has given her, which gradually makes plain just how traumatic the consequences of Rose's mixing became. Bacon's obsession is memory, and this novel flows across continents and generations in a wash of poetic images and richly drawn portraits of a family constrained by its inability to open up. Though the interweaving of flashbacks isn't always smooth, unconventional glimpses of India past and present sit vividly side by side with reflections on politics, perception and racial identity. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/08/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-312-42384-1
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4668-3526-9
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