“The Far Field” by Madhuri Vijay

Thanks to Grove Press and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Shalini, a young woman from Bangalore, goes on a journey to a remote mountain village in Kashmir to try and track down a mysterious man from her family’s past. Whilst living there, Shalini experiences the past and current impacts of Kashmiri politics and conflict and uncovers the connection these have with her past, and her complex relationship with her deceased mother.

Anyone who looks at my reading history can probably tell that I am a huge fan of South Asian fiction, but Kashmir is an area I know woefully little about other than it looks extremely pretty in Bollywood music videos and a vague knowledge of some historical tensions between Muslims and Hindus so it was interesting to learn more about the area.

Shalini isn’t always the easiest character to like. By all accounts she comes from a background of comparative privilege and her actions can be incredibly selfish and frustrating at times, but for all that I felt she was a really believable character. Shalini and the other characters make weak and cowardly choices but in reality, this is often what people do.

It’s quite rare to find an author brave enough to make some of the narrative decisions made in this novel, when I finished it I felt like I was in shock. Obviously I can’t spoil anything, but it’s been a while since I’ve finished a book and been genuinely taken aback by what I’ve read and had to lie there for a while just…processing.

The novel is well written on the whole, although the middle section does drag on a tad. It felt a little unbalanced in that sense, not enough to put me off but those who prefer a steadier pace might struggle.

It’s tricky to go into much detail about this book without spoiling things. It can be bleak at times, but as a lens on human foibles I found it a very satisfying and illuminating read. Not an easy read for the beach by any means, but if you like novels with intense, character driven plots it’s definitely worth a look.

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