Published: 6 Jul 2017 26 (Hardback) Apr 2018 (Paperback)
What happens when we attempt to exchange the life we are given for something better? Can we transform the possibilities we are born into? A State of Freedom prises open the central, defining events of our century –displacement and migration –but not as you imagine them. Five characters, in very different circumstances, from a domestic cook in Mumbai, to a vagrant and his dancing bear, and a girl who escapes terror in her home village for a new life in the city, find out the meanings of dislocation, and the desire for more. Set in contemporary India and moving between the reality of this world and the shadow of another, this novel of multiple narratives –formally daring, fierce but full of pity –delivers a devastating and haunting exploration of the unquenchable human urge to strive for a different life.
This is an illuminating and fascinating book we read of what life is like in rural and city India. It is bittersweet seeing the hopes of the characters beaten down by the need to survive, to live day by day and, yet, hoping for that opportunity which will bring a better life. It is an honest insight into the lives of the poor and the way in which they have to live. The attitudes towards educating children – the difference between how boys are treaded and how girls are treated. The expectations of male and female, how each cope with their situations and how attitude, strength, mental strength and, perhaps, a little luck and kindness can be the difference between surviving, living and dying. We also get a look at the better off, those who have had opportunity and education, have good jobs perhaps travelling abroad for education or work coming back with more liberal thoughts and attitudes but will they help change society, help bring progress, help India build a better way of life for it’s people – could they even attempt it?
It is a wonderful, awful look at contemporary India. A huge country with huge, complicated issues. A country so set in tradition it is difficult to see how change can be made or whether it should be and yet it is being changed haphazardly partly from external influences, partly from the small steps that are being taken by those who simply want ‘a better life’ for themselves and their families.
Read this book, take a look at the lives of Milly, Renu, Soni, the ‘fox’ brothers, and so on. Their stories are not easy to read, sometimes they are quite shocking, horrendous, appalling but, ultimately, each is about striving always striving for but, sadly, rarely attaining a better life.
e-ARC from Penguin (Chatto & Windus and Vintage) via NetGalley – thanks to all.
Hardcover: 288 pages Publisher: Chatto & Windus (6 July 2017)
ISBN-10: 178474042X ISBN-13: 978-1784740429
Paperback: 288 pages Publisher: Vintage (26 April 2018)
Vintage is part of the Penguin Random House group of companies.
ISBN-10: 1784701734 ISBN-13: 978-1784701734
Neel Mukherjee is the author of two novels, A Life Apart (2010), which won the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award for best novel, and The Lives of Others (2014), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Costa Best Novel Award, and won the Encore Prize for best second novel. He lives in London.