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Reviews of The Earthspinner by Anuradha Roy

The Earthspinner

A Novel

by Anuradha Roy

The Earthspinner by Anuradha Roy X
The Earthspinner by Anuradha Roy
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2022, 224 pages

    Jul 2023, 224 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Tasneem Pocketwala
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the critically acclaimed, Booker Prize-nominated author of Sleeping on Jupiter and All the Lives We Never Lived, an incisive and moving novel about the struggle for creative achievement in a world consumed by growing fanaticism and political upheaval.

One night, Elango has a dream that consumes him, driving him to give it shape. The potter is determined to create a terracotta horse whose beauty will be reason enough for its existence. Yet he cannot pin down from where it has galloped into his mind. The Mahabharata? The Trojan horse legend? His anonymous potter-ancestors? Once it's finished, he does not know where his creation will belong. In a temple compound? Gracing a hotel lobby? Or should he gift it to Zohra, the woman he loves, yet despairs of ever marrying.

The astral, indefinable force driving Elango toward forbidden love and creation has unleashed other currents. He unexpectedly falls into a complicated relationship with a neighborhood girl who is beginning her bewildering journey into adulthood. He is suddenly adopted by a lost dog who steals his heart. While Elango's life is changing, the community around him is as well, but it is a transformation driven by inflammatory passions of a different kind. Here, people, animals, and even the gods live on a knife's edge and the consequences of daring to dream are cataclysmic.

Moving between India and England, The Earthspinner reflects the many ways in which the East and the West's paths converge and diverge in constant conflict. Anuradha Roy breathes new life into ancient myths, giving allegorical shape to the terrifying war on reason and the imagination waged by increasingly powerful forces of fanaticism. An epic that is a metaphor for our age, The Earthspinner is an intricate, wrenching novel about the transformed ways of loving and living in an increasingly uncertain world.

The Earthspinner

Thursday, October 11

It is autumn and I am at university in England. I've never known autumn. Where I grew up, the monsoon cooled into a mild winter that the trees did not think it worth changing color for and in a matter of days it went straight to the infernos of summer. Here, the light is green and gold, and in the rectangle of trees framed by my window, russet and burgundy leaves drift from the sky, alive in the moving air. It's quiet enough for me to hear their soft rustle as they touch the ground and the nib of my pen scratching on blue aerogram paper. I am fine, everything was okay on the plane. All the houses looked the same from the air, like toys. The grass is a different shade of green.

"You always manage to get away, you always have it easy," my sister's voice keeps saying in my head. Those had been her parting words at the airport though she did not utter them out loud.

Tia has three years of school to finish, is defeated every day in her tussles with...

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In places the novel comes across as too contrived — certain things fall into place a little too easily. The pace, too, sags around the middle. All the same, it works as a gentle read, not dousing you in heavy ideas or complicated storylines. Besides, it's an astonishing feat to fit into such a tight narrative themes as wide-ranging as love, loss, identity, diasporic longing, grief and art, while also exploring all kinds of relationships: parent-child, mentor-protégé and even human-pet. The Earthspinner is an Indian novel rooted in the country's ethos and history, but one that reaches out to tap into ideas that are universal...continued

Full Review (619 words)

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(Reviewed by Tasneem Pocketwala).

Media Reviews

New York Times
While a tale of star-crossed lovers is hardly unique, the specificities here — a ceramist and a calligrapher in 1970s India — feel fresh, and Roy's ability to channel her characters' inner lives is as thrilling as ever. At the same time, gluttons for plot, especially those who appreciate stakes high enough to raise pulses, might find themselves in the same predicament I was, unsure of why Roy set up this perfect confrontation and played it out so quietly.

Reader's Digest
Deeply resonant with the world of today. The novel is a haunting investigation into grief and loss and the need for creative impulse to rise above it all…about the fragility of the freedoms to live and love the way we want.

Shelf Awareness
Like Roy's other novels, The Earthspinner uses dreamlike lyricism alongside even-handed description, giving its gradual accumulation of tension a mesmerizing cadence...With these various perspectives framing Elango's dreamlike tale, The Earthspinner is a kaleidoscopic glimpse into the fragile web of connections and ruptures, divine convergences and missed opportunities that make up life's unpredictable and breathtaking pattern.

The Guardian (UK)
A story of love, loss and longing; tradition, creation and destruction; and the invisible lines that divide humans, animals and the divine...a quiet, gentle work, never gratuitous...Intricate yet intimate, the novel allows imagination to fill the rest – as all good fiction should.

The Telegraph (UK)
The literary and mythological references, coupled with Roy's vivid descriptive prose, provide a rich texture to the narrative. The subtle moments of foreshadowing add to the narrative sophistication.

Booklist (starred review)
Roy's multilayered novel evokes the craft of pottery with a gentle touch while rendering a moving depiction of the power of guilt.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Roy delivers profound insights on the power of art ('Work with whatever earth you get,' Elango tells Sara. 'A potter knows how to do that'), the hideous nature of religious intolerance, and perhaps most sadly, the consequences of pursuing a dream. This is Roy's best to date.

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Beyond the Book

The Kumhar Caste

Bronze sculpture of a Kumhar man making potteryIn Anuradha Roy's The Earthspinner, one of the central characters is Elango, who, despite his college education, chooses to practice pottery like his ancestors. Elango belongs to the caste of potters known by various names including Kumhar, Kumbhar, Moolye, Odari and Kulal. As per India's caste system, since Elango was born into this community, it is socially unacceptable for him to do anything other than practice pottery.

The caste system in India is a form of organizing society with ancient origins, wherein Hindus are divided mainly into four castes: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, in descending order of hierarchy. These are then divided into thousands of subgroups and subcastes. A fifth caste lying outside this system is made ...

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