We That Are Young

Preti Taneja. Knopf, $27.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-525-52152-5
Taneja’s impressive debut uses King Lear as a template but fearlessly carves a territory of its own. While remaining close to Shakespeare’s plot points, she offers a portrait of modern India both panoramic and complex, through the eyes of six main characters. The story begins in 2012 with Jivan Singh returning to his native New Delhi after 15 years in the United States. The illegitimate son of towering Indian magnate Devraj Bapuji, Jivan has come home as his elderly father prepares to hand off his business empire, but to whom? There are three daughters—Gargi, Radha, and Sita—as well as Jeet, a surrogate son and offspring of Devraj’s right hand, Ranjit. Jeet’s case for succession is weakened because he’s gay (given the conservative nature of the business establishment), a fact he’s loath to admit. Jivan, as a semi-outsider, is the ideal opening guide for the reader. The perspective shifts to Gargi, “custodian of her father’s office.” Business gives Gargi an adrenaline rush like nothing else. From Gargi, focus travels to Radhi (Regan to Gargi’s Goneril), who’s as “feminine” and sensual as her older sister is “masculine.” Sections devoted to Jeet and Sita follow. Short chapters of Devraj speaking directly to the reader are interspersed throughout, and the plot follows his rapid mental and physical decline while Radhi and Gargi battle for control of his empire. Taneja’s intricate, literary prose is heavy in both detail and reflection. This is a work of epic scope and depth that’s bracingly of the current moment. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/13/2018
Release date: 09/04/2018
Book - 978-0-525-52153-2
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