cover image The Book of Everlasting Things

The Book of Everlasting Things

Aanchal Malhotra. Flatiron, $29.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-25080-202-6

At the heart of Indian artist and writer Malhotra’s sweeping debut novel (after the memoir Remnants of Partition: 21 Objects from a Continent Divided) is an indelible love story between two young apprentices of ancient arts: Samir Vij, a Hindu boy born with an extraordinary sense of smell that equips him for the family perfume business started by his uncle Vivek; and Firdaus Khan, a Muslim girl whose calligrapher father defies custom by teaching her his craft (only boys are expected to work). Spanning over a century, from the early 1900s to 2017, the author focuses her mesmerizing tale on the 1947 Partition and its devastating impact on the city of Lahore, where multicultural families and friends who once lived in harmony are wrenched apart. The budding childhood love story between Samir and Firdaus becomes a forbidden romance when the partition dooms their relationship—which later haunts them throughout their separate lives. Malhotra skillfully interweaves Vivek’s story—a competent young man in the family textile business who goes off to war and returns irrevocably scarred by battle and a personal tragedy—into Samir’s complex trajectory, and beautifully conveys the artistry behind perfumes. What emerges is a transcendent study of the blurring of personal and political, as ordinary people deal with catastrophic historical events. Agent: Rebecca Wearmouth, Peters Fraser & Dunlop. (Dec.)