Cover image for The lives of others
The lives of others
Mukherjee, Neel, author.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.
Physical Description:
516 pages : map, genealogical table ; 25 cm
Chronicles the vicissitudes of the extended Ghosh family as internal rivalries accompany the implosion of the family business and external social unrest.
Format :


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Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
Audubon Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Clearfield Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Crane Branch Library FICTION Adult Fiction-New 21-Day Item Being fixed/mended
Crane Branch Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Orchard Park Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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The aging patriarch and matriarch of the Ghosh family preside over their large household, made up of their five adult children and their respective children, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. Each set of family members occupies a floor of the home, in accordance to their standing within the family. Poisonous rivalries between sisters-in-law, destructive secrets, and the implosion of the family business threaten to unravel bonds of kinship as social unrest brews in greater Indian society. This is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change: the chasm between the generations, and between those who have and those who have not, has never been wider. The eldest grandchild, Supratik, compelled by his idealism, becomes dangerously involved in extremist political activism--an action that further catalyzes the decay of the Ghosh home.Ambitious, rich, and compassionate, The Lives of Others anatomizes the soul of a nation as it unfolds a family history, at the same time as it questions the nature of political action and the limits of empathy. It is a novel of unflinching power and emotional force.

Author Notes

Neel Mukherjee is a UK author who won the 2015 Encore Award for his novel The Lives of Others. Mukherjee's novel, which was also shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and the Costa Novel Award, was chosen from a shortlist of six.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Mukherjee's West Bengal upstairs/downstairs epic can be raw but honest as he delves unflinchingly into the struggles of a family caught up in the social, economic, and political turmoil of 1960s India. The once solidly middle-class Ghoshes occupy all four floors of their Calcutta home. The top floor belongs to the highest-ranking members, parents Prafullanath and Charubala. Below, each floor is assigned to family members in descending order of rank, from eldest son Adinath and wife Sandhya all the way down to a storage room on the ground floor where Purba, widow of the Ghoshes' youngest son, lives with her two children, one of whom is a math savant, possibly autistic. The family's paper and publishing businesses are failing, and their once shiny and respectable patina is starting to corrode around the edges. Witness eldest grandson Supratik, who goes off to college and becomes a Marxist, determined to champion the rights of the poor and downtrodden. Mukherjee's scope is vast yet so intimately personal that it's easy imagine him donning different costumes for the characters as he composes their stories; perhaps literally walking in their shoes. How he accomplished such a wonderful feat is unknown. What is known is that this novel stands as a literary boon. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, its American edition was rushed into print.--Chavez, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Money corrupts and wealth corrupts absolutely in Mukherjee's (A Life Apart) second novel, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize-a devastatingly detailed account of a family's downfall amid the political turmoil and social unrest of India in the late 1960s and early '70s. In 1967, five generations of the Ghosh family occupy the four floors of their Calcutta home, from the top floor-where Prafullanath, the patriarch, suffers the indignities of old age; his wife tyrannizes her daughter-in-law; and his eldest son Adinath, responsible for running the overextended family paper business, resides with wife and children-down to street level, where the widow and two children of Prafullanath's youngest son share one small room. Adinath's two brothers and their families, along with their unmarriageable sister, complete the household, while servant Madan supplies unrequited compassion. Supratnik (Adinath's son) escapes to the countryside to sow Maoist rebellion as labor strife, jealousy, vice, and betrayal poisons relationships at home. Mukherjee reveals the unraveling social fabric through interwoven points of view. Powerful evocations of poverty and oppression begin in the prologue, recounting a debt-driven murder-suicide, and do not stop until the last excruciating scenes of police torture. This challenging epic has the scope of a political novel and the humanity of a family saga without sentimentality. Descriptions of a rooftop garden, the wonders of mathematics, and the charm of a secret flirtation offer brief respites from the economic and social injustices of post-independence India. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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