Reading guide for A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi

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A Breath of Fresh Air

by Amulya Malladi

A Breath of Fresh Air
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2002, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2003, 224 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Amulya Malladi chose to use the Bhopal gas leak of 1984, which killed 3,800 people and permanently disabled thousands more, as the key event within A Breath of Fresh Air. Given the license of a fiction writer to invent tragedy, why would an author like Malladi decide to use a real event instead?

  2. Does the reality behind such an event enhance or distract from the fictional story?

  3. Do you, as the reader, hold the author to different standards of verisimilitude when such an event appears in a novel?

  4. What is the effect of starting the novel with this terrifying event?

  5. How does Anjali’s role as the victim of such a tragedy change her life in subtle, unexpected ways (in addition to the major changes she experiences)?

  6. What is the meaning behind the title, beyond the obvious allusion to the gas leak?

  7. Malladi narrates her novel through three voices: those of Anjali, Sandeep, and Prakash. Why might she have made this decision as an author? What are some of the inherent benefits and risks of such a choice?

  8. Do you, as the reader, find the voice of each different character convincing? Why or why not?

  9. Think of another novel in which the author engages more than one narrative voice. In comparison to A Breath of Fresh Air, how does the author distinguish the different voices from one another, and do you find it as effective, less effective, or more effective?

  10. Given that the author grants more space to Anjali’s voice than to the voices of Prakash and Sandeep, did you find Anjali’s way of telling the story to be the most sympathetic? Or did you want to hear more from either or both of the other two?

  11. After the three major characters, which minor character did you find most crucial to the story’s central conflicts?
    Why?

  12. How did Anjali, Sandeep, and Prakash either maintain or subvert traditional gender roles within modern Indian society?

  13. What is the role of fantasy within the context of an arranged marriage such as Anjali’s to Prakash? Once her fantasies are inverted, how do they continue to play a role in Anjali’s life?

  14. How does materialism affect each main character, and how does the author show its presence?

  15. What is the range of emotions Anjali experiences after Prakash returns to her life, and how does the author illustrate each of these emotions?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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