Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary
Anuradha Roy’s first novel to be published in the United States, An Atlas of Impossible Longing (2011), is set in India and follows the lives of three generations of a middle-class family. Carol Haggas, writing for Booklist, described Roy’s debut novel as being “incandescently evocative” and “filled with wrenching tragedy as well as abiding passion.”
The novel is divided into three parts. The first part is called “The Drowned House.” In Chapter 1 of Part 1, the story focuses on Amulya, who is described as a learned man who left his family’s home in Calcutta twenty years ago to set up a business in a small country town at the edge of the jungle, Songarh. Living with Amulya is his wife, Kananbala, and their two sons, Kamal and Nirmal. The business that Amulya has established in Songarh produces herbal potions and pills. At the opening of the novel, it is 1927, and Amulya is sitting uncomfortably at a party given by some of his workers. Amulya feels obliged to be at the tribal celebration so as to demonstrate his understanding and acceptance of local customs. But Amulya is not a social person and is anxious to leave. When he is finally able to excuse himself, it is late.
Kananbala is waiting for him. She attempts to disguise her anger and suspicion that her husband has been flirting with local girls at the party. Kananbala is frustrated because her husband spends less time at home than he used to, and she spends most of her time in the house with little to do. There are no neighbors with whom Kananbala can develop relationships. Larissa and Digby Barnum live across the street, but they are British, and the two families do not speak to one another; there are both language and cultural barriers between them. However, because she is bored, Kananbala often watches the Barnums out of her bedroom window. She keeps tabs on the strange clothes they wear and how they treat their Indian servants. Mr. Barnum is...
(The entire section is 618 words.)