Blurb (as on Goodreads):
‘Intense, lyrical, and powerful … This is a remarkable debut.’ – Jeet Thayil An astounding exploration of intense longings, Shubhangi Swarup’s novel begins in the depths of the Andaman Sea, and follows geological and emotional faultlines through the Irrawaddy delta and the tourist-trap of Thamel, to end amidst the highest glaciers and passes of the Karakorams. The story sweeps through worlds and times that are inhabited by: a scientist who studies trees and a clairvoyant who talks to them; Lord Goodenough who travels around the furthest reaches of the Raj, giving names to nameless places; a geologist working towards ending futile wars over a glacier; octogenarian lovers; a superstitious dictator and a mother struggling to get her revolutionary son released; a yeti who seeks human companionship; a turtle who turns first into a boat and then a woman; and the ghost of an evaporated ocean as restless as the continents. Binding them all together is a vision of life as vast as the universe itself. Richly imaginative and irresistible in its storytelling, Latitudes of Longing announces the arrival of an incredible new literary talent.
I have always been fond of places, their history, the stories that their people live to tell and Latitudes of Longing has made me crave to do that, the drop-everything-and-do-what-your-heart-wants sort of craving. So I guess the title is quite appropriate not just for the characters but also for the readers.
Latitudes of Longing has four interconnected stories, but each story takes place and symbolizes a particular topology. The stories are metaphorical, full of longing and covering almost every emotion known to mankind, especially hope and grief.
I loved the characters- the feel real and easily relatable. These characters have acclimatized to the terrain they live in and somehow their lives are intertwined to these lands intricately. Their idea of living in places other than these habitats is unimaginable and quite impossible- they wouldn’t survive, they don’t know how to.
The writing is the highlight of the book. Most of the times its engaging and gives us things to think about and reflect. A few times it gets monotonous, repetitive and quite messy. The author raises the bar very high with her first story that takes places in the Andaman Islands. The writing, plot, and characters are brilliant, the events are catchy and the journey feels painful yet bearable. As the terrain shifts to Burma (Faultline) and Thamel (valley), the plot gets a bit boring, without a direction. All is well again in the snow deserts of Changthang, where we meet Apo. The ending is certainly fabulous, giving the book the closure it deserves.
‘Latitudes of Longing’ is an almost poetic/lyrical tribute to lives that are dedicated to their motherland, lives that are intricately woven to the very soul of the land they live in and lives that are mere puppets of fate.