India 1930-2030: A Novel.
This is a debut novel from India of an utterly original kind. Joshi has found a style and a form in which to say new things about the Indian experience in a new manner. Like Roy, Joshi is doing something entirely fresh.
The novel takes three generations of a Gujarati family and uses them to track the course of Indian history back to 1930 and forward into the first decades of the next century. The grandparents are disciples of Gandhi, smart, sarcastic and principled; they meet on a non-violent demonstration against British rule in Calcutta in the 1930s, fall in love while falling under the army's baton.
Their only son, Paresh, our principal narrator, grows up to drift through life, torn in different directions all at once. In turn, he produces a daughter, Para, who is tomboyish, aggressive, martial, and, in her sequences in the book, a squadron leader in the Indian Air Force when, in the near future, India is at war with a Muslim Pakistani-Iranian alliance. She therefore kills people for a living and is the antithesis of her grandparents' principles of Gandhiesque non-violence, civil disobedience and passive resistance.
This trajectory of Indian history from non-violence to belligerent jingoism is reflected in key episodes in the lives of this family. All four key characters are fascinating, and each of the set pieces in which they figure is stunningly handled by Joshi. The writing is sharp, modern, fluent and varied. Joshi is equally adept at handling crowd scenes, midair battles, sexual farce and embarrassing encounters.
It is a book that is jaded and yet principled, ribald and yet serious, laddish and yet sensitive. It feels authentic, considered and moving at all times. It's a winner.