Maurya Simon (review date 9 April 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Simon, Maurya. “A Princess Remembers the Fall of British India.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (9 April 1989): 10.

[In the following review, Simon observes that Raj is an eloquent and engaging novel, noting that Mehta provides a unique feminine perspective on Indian literature.]

“Providence,” wrote Rudyard Kipling, “created the Maharajahs to offer mankind a spectacle.” That spectacle flourished for several millennia within India, prior to the establishment of imperial rule in 1858 by the British Crown. Despite successive waves of foreign invasions and migrations over many centuries, and despite the passing and reformation of dynasties, the...

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Ian Buruma (essay date 18 May 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Buruma, Ian. “Good Night, Sweet Princes.” New York Review of Books 36, no. 8 (18 May 1989): 9-10, 12.

[In the following essay, Buruma discusses the British colonial rule of India and its social and cultural effects as portrayed in Mehta's Raj.]

[In Raj: A Novel] Gita Mehta sets the scene well: India, the Roaring Twenties, the Royal Calcutta Turf Club. Jaya, wife of Prince Pratap of Sirpur, is watching the races, dressed in red and indigo, the Sirpur colors. She is joined by her brother-in-law, Maharajah Victor, a gentle man in love with a Hollywood star:

“The Sirpur colors seem to belong on you, Princess. I...

(The entire section is 3838 words.)

Yasmin Alibhai (review date 16 June 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Alibhai, Yasmin. “A False Orient.” New Statesman and Society 2, no. 54 (16 June 1989): 34.

[In the following review, Alibhai criticizes Raj as a meager and bland novel, deficient in characterization and inventiveness.]

There is a thin novel somewhere in this fat one [Raj]. Thin as a gruel that hardly satisfies the appetite it raises, in spite of being served up in an aureate bowl on a table heavy with exquisite silver. The story is the personal odyssey of Jaya, a Rajput princess who moves from a life of seclusion and exclusion in a sumptuous palace, first as a daughter and then the wife of a Maharajah, during the days of British rule, to a...

(The entire section is 798 words.)

Sarah Curtis (review date 7 July 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Curtis, Sarah. “Through the Lattice Chinks.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4501 (7 July 1989): 739.

[In the following review, Curtis praises Mehta's eye for detail in Raj but argues that the plot is uninspired and poorly narrated.]

In Raj, Gita Mehta, who was born in India and educated at Bombay and Cambridge Universities, chronicles the last years of the Rajput realms of India, from the turn of the century until 1950 when under the new Indian constitution the rulers of the kingdoms surrendered their powers. She does so through the eyes of Jaya, Princess of Balmer, whose fort and palaces on the edge of the desert have touches of Jaipur,...

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Betty Abel (review date October 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Abel, Betty. “Quarterly Fiction Review.” Contemporary Review 255, no. 1485 (October 1989): 214.

[In the following excerpt, Abel asserts that Raj eloquently illustrates the lives of Indians, particularly Indian women, and their interpersonal relationships with each other and with British colonists in the early to mid-twentieth century.]

Raj by Gita Mehta, the new rival to Paul Scott, author of Jewel in the Crown, is a novel of stature. The plot is as sentimental and ordinary as many other tales of the Indian Continent under British rule: but Gita Mehta brings to this scenario a freshness and depth unusual in a romance of the Orient. Her...

(The entire section is 509 words.)

Lavinia Greenlaw (review date 4 June 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenlaw, Lavinia. “A River View.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4705 (4 June 1993): 23.

[In the following review, Greenlaw applauds Mehta for constructing an insightful and flowing narrative in A River Sutra, complimenting the novel's skillful use of fables as representations of modern Indian culture.]

The glossary at the back of A River Sutra tells us that sutra has two meanings: an aphoristic literary form, and a string or thread. In this book, the two usages are simultaneously employed, as a simple narrative carries the reader through a careful arrangement of interlocking didactic tales. Gita Mehta's skillfully constructed second...

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William Dalrymple (review date 5 June 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dalrymple, William. “When the Mocking Had to Stop.” Spectator 270, no. 8604 (5 June 1993): 38.

[In the following review, Dalrymple commends Mehta's prose and tone in A River Sutra, contending that the separate stories within the novel are varied yet unified in direction.]

The Hampstead novel this is not. In Gita Mehta's slim new volume [A River Sutra] we meet a cast the likes of which has rarely been seen before in the precious pages of English literary fiction. Eat your heart out Anita Brookner: this book has got ash-smeared ascetics and bejewelled courtesans, shy river-minstrels and enlightenment-seeking suicides, ardent young bandits...

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Merle Rubin (review date 2 July 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rubin, Merle. Review of A River Sutra, by Gita Mehta. Christian Science Monitor 85, no. 152 (2 July 1993): 10.

[In the following excerpt, Rubin offers a positive assessment of A River Sutra, lauding Mehta's ability to connect the novel's individual storylines into a “well-designed whole.”]

Vacation, ideally, is an opportunity for renewal—whether it's a well-earned rest or a stimulating change of pace. The narrator of Gita Mehta's novel A River Sutra is an Indian government worker who seeks rest but finds stimulation. Hoping to relax from the hurly-burly of city life, he takes a position as manager of a rest house on the leafy banks of...

(The entire section is 294 words.)

Rahul Jacob (review date 11 July 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Jacob, Rahul. “Down the Stream of Stories.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (11 July 1993): 3.

[In the following review, Jacob applauds the graceful and fluid stories in A River Sutra, arguing that each story adds dimension to the main focus of the novel.]

There are a great number of us who are not quite able to believe in religion, yet are unable to embrace atheism, which seems “too final, certain, closed. Itself a kind of belief,” as Salman Rushdie observes in The Satanic Verses, Caught in the middle, we have more doubts than certainties, more questions than answers. Neglectful of both Mass and mall, we seek a moral dimension to our lives...

(The entire section is 844 words.)

Gabriele Annan (review date 15 July 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Annan, Gabriele. “Tales from the Narmada Woods.” New York Review of Books 40, no. 13 (15 July 1993): 36.

[In the following review, Annan discusses the depth of emotion in the six varied story stories that comprise A River Sutra.]

A River Sutra consists of six tales that make up a fictionalized primer on Indian attitudes to religion, love, music, and poetry. An entry in the glossary explains the word sutra:

Literally, a thread or string. Also, a term for literary forms, usually aphoristic in nature.

What this particular sutra strings together, though, are not so...

(The entire section is 1218 words.)

C. N. Ramachandran and A. G. Kahn (essay date 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ramachandran, C. N., and A. G. Kahn. “Gita Mehta's A River Sutra: Two Views.” Literary Criterion 29, no. 3 (1994): 1-15.

[In the following essay, Ramachandran and Kahn offer two different critical perspectives on A River Sutra. Ramachandran asserts that the multitude of themes and characters in A River Sutra act as a mirror of modern India culture—diverse yet bound to the traditions of the past—while Kahn argues that the River Narmada—not the Bureaucrat/narrator—is the main character of the novel.]


A River Sutra is Gita Mehta's third novel, the other...

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Marlene Fisher (review date winter 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fisher, Marlene. Review of A River Sutra, by Gita Mehta. World Literature Today 68, no. 1 (winter 1994): 214.

[In the following review, Fisher contrasts the innocence of the narrator with the personalities of the individual characters in A River Sutra.]

Otherwise nameless, “little brother,” as his mullah friend Tariq Mia calls him, is a former senior bureaucrat from Bombay. Following the death of his wife, he has become a vanaprasthi of sorts who, so he thought, withdrew from the world by accepting the position of manager of the government rest house on the banks of the Narmada River. Kindly and well-meaning, little brother is the perfect...

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Indira Karamcheti (review date January 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Karamcheti, Indira. “Cover Stories.” Women's Review of Books 11, no. 4 (January 1994): 20-1.

[In the following review, Karamcheti compliments Mehta's imagery and cultural romanticism in A River Sutra but argues that the stories are superficial and ignore the social and political issues facing modern India.]

You'd never know it over here, but India is one of the largest makers of movies in the world. The Indian film industry is astonishing for its sheer industriousness, if not for its renown. Yet here in the US, and probably through most of the West, we don't see (and don't really know about) this extraordinary output, this twentieth-century...

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Gita Mehta and Wendy Smith (interview date 12 May 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mehta, Gita, and Wendy Smith. “Gita Mehta: Making India Accessible.” Publishers Weekly 244, no. 19 (12 May 1997): 53-4.

[In the following interview, Mehta discusses her writing career, her multinational living arrangements, and the inspirations behind Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India.]

Gita and Sonny Mehta's apartment is an oasis of tranquility in midtown Manhattan. Outside on a chilly March day, Park Avenue traffic is at its mid-afternoon worst, and the chatter of kids exiting from a school next door nearly drowns out the honking horns and screeching brakes. Inside, all distracting sounds seem to be absorbed by the crammed floor-to-ceiling...

(The entire section is 2095 words.)

Michael Gorra (review date 22 June 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gorra, Michael. “Character of a Nation.” Washington Post Book World (22 June 1997): 5.

[In the following review, Gorra evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India, noting that the book's weak structure “makes it neither a unified whole nor a collection of fully individual essays.”]

At a dinner party this spring I sat between two novelists from South Asia and listened to them talk about contemporary Indian politics. Was there any chance that the former prime minister, Narasimha Rao, might go to jail on corruption charges? How about the relation between the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party and...

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Bharati Mukherjee (review date 8 August 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mukherjee, Bharati. Review of Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India, by Gita Mehta. Times Literary Supplement, no. 4923 (8 August 1997): 12.

[In the following review, Mukherjee praises Mehta's insight into Indian social, cultural, and political viewpoints in Snake and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India, drawing particular focus to the nostalgia of Mehta's more personal essays.]

At the time of the Raj, it was fashionable for British and American writers as diverse as Maud Diver, Rudyard Kipling, E. M. Forster, George Orwell, Beverly Nichols, John Masters and Katherine Mayo to present the Eastern and the Western thought-processes as opposed....

(The entire section is 727 words.)

Beverly Schneller (essay date summer 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Schneller, Beverly. “‘Visible and Visitable’: The Role of History in Gita Mehta's Raj and Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance.Journal of Narrative Theory 31, no. 2 (summer 2001): 233-54.

[In the following essay, Schneller argues that Raj and Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance both use historical fact as a tool to further their plots and themes, commenting that the “deliberate and deliberative uses of history employed by Mistry and Mehta reveal these works as unique, problematic, and complex.”]

The title of this essay derives from Henry James' comments in his preface to The Aspern Papers about the qualities of the...

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