Summary and book reviews of A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee

A State of Freedom

by Neel Mukherjee

A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee X
A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee
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  • Published:
    Jan 2018, 304 pages

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Book Summary

What happens when one attempts to exchange the life one is given for something better? Can we transform the possibilities we are born into?

In this stunning novel, prize-winning author Neel Mukherjee wrests open the central, defining events of our century: displacement and migration. Five characters, in very different circumstances - from a domestic cook in Mumbai, to a vagrant and his dancing bear, to 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

The Wall Street Journal

Exquisitely written, cleverly structured, powerfully resonant to the very last line. . . . A profoundly intelligent and empathetic novel of privilege and poverty, advancement and entrapment.

Boston Globe

Many of the sections are sprinkled with otherworldly moments and spectral figures, so that these narratives read almost like ghost stories, while others are rooted firmly in the achingly realistic, unequal, and unjust soil of modern day India.

Harpers

Without announcing his experimental intent too loudly, Mukherjee rips the meat of the novel (imagery, incident, social insight, feeling, mood) from the bones (narrative and character development in the usual sense) and feeds his readers only the richest pieces. . . . Mukherjee looks straight at the ugliest parts of an unequal society and uses what he finds to construct something beautiful.

NPR

Simply gorgeous . . . A State of Freedom is a marvel of a book, shocking and beautiful, and it proves that Mukherjee is one of the most original and talented authors working today.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With its mixture of prose styles and narrative voices, Mukherjee's novel is a literary achievement.

Library Journal

Starred Review. A disjointed voice confronts impending death. Man Booker Prize short-listed Mukherjee (for The Lives of Others) gathers a cast of untethered characters to present urgent, even beseeching, testimony on how the titular "state of freedom " is too often more impossible dream than achievable reality.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A calm, compelling, unshrinking portrait of humanity in transition; both disturbing and dazzling.

Author Blurb Sarah Waters
An extraordinary achievement. Subtle and multilayered, it's a study of the brutality of social divisions, written with tremendous tenderness; a work that insists on the dignity of figures obliged to lead undignified lives. A powerful, troubling novel. The moment I finished it, I began it again.

Author Blurb Hanya Yanagihara
Neel Mukherjee's breathtaking A State of Freedom is that rarest, most wonderful of things: a book both literarily dextrous, full of unforgettable scenes, images, language, and characters, as well as a furious, unsparing, clear-eyed study of how a society's gross inequities of money and power demean and deform the human condition. The most astonishing and brilliant novel I have read in a long, long time.

Author Blurb Edmund White
This is a great hymn to poor, scabby humanity - a devastating portrait of poverty and the inhumanity of the rich to the poor. A masterpiece.

Author Blurb A. M. Homes
Neel Mukherjee's A State of Freedom is more than a novel - it is an immersive experience. He writes like a painter, his language is his palette, bringing to life the variation of India's cities and towns in a dense, multilayered world.

Author Blurb Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
A State of Freedom is formally audacious, vividly observed, and deeply imagined. Unsentimental yet full of heart, grimly real yet mysteriously dreamlike, with characters who continue to live their complicated lives long after you've turned the last page. Just a beautiful, beautiful piece of work.

Author Blurb Rose Tremain
An extraordinary, compassionate, complex, hard-hitting wonder of a book. It is in a class of its own.

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