cover image A Love Song for India

A Love Song for India

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58243-792-7

There’s a cinematic quality to many of these short stories, not surprising given Jhabvala’s illustrious film career: she has written more than 20 screenplays for Merchant-Ivory films and won Academy Awards for A Room with a View and Howards End. In “Bombay,” young Munni escapes an unwanted arranged marriage and flees to the U.S., where she meets and marries the son of a famous Indian film actor. The couple returns to the ancestral home of the aging celebrity, who takes a particular interest in his son’s new bride. The opulent setting and plot twists are noteworthy, but eclipse the characters. Other stories, set in New York and London, echo with a similar resonance; unlikely brushes with fame or fortune create intriguing situations, but Jhabvala fails to fill out characters. In “The New Messiah,” orphaned siblings Rita and Kris (short for Krishna) meet a filmmaker in London, who is struggling after a string of flops, and follow him to New York so that Rita can assist him. It’s Kris, however, who becomes the apple of the man’s eye, apparently inspiring everyone in his wake as well as an elaborate new film. Though the story builds around Kris’s magnetism, accounts of his appearance, idiosyncrasies, or appeal remain absent. Jhabvala’s exquisite sensibilities promise a more satisfying engagement. Agent: Debbie Gill, Maia Publishing Services. (Feb.)