A young man named Henry sits down with his grandmother, a genial lady still called Baby by everyone, in her Manhattan townhouse where he has lived all his life, to record the history of a spiritual movement that has woven itself into the fabric of their family's lives for four generations. What unfolds is a mesmerizing family saga: the imperious great-grandmother Elsa and her husband, an Indian poet, whose marriage is as unconventional as the movement they help to found; Baby, their cheerfully pragmatic daughter, married to the aloof English diplomat Graeme; bemused and brooding Renata, Baby and Graeme's daughter, married to an idle dreamer; and finally Henry, Renata's son, who in many ways bears the legacy of all that has gone before. Their lives--and that of the movement's elusive yet ineluctable founder, known only as the Master--intertwine, diverge, and collide with each other in a masterfully orchestrated story spanning the twentieth century and several continents.
By turns brilliantly satiric, insightful, and profoundly moving, Shards Of Memory is a beautifully wrought tale of love and devotion, of family and faith, and of the complex nature of memory itself--a literary tour de force from one of the most distinguished novelists of our time.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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"Magical . . . [Jhabvala] is one of those rare writers who manages to mock without sneering, to be simultaneously caustic and loving with her creations. She writes with a simplicity reminiscent of . . . E.M. Forster."--The Wall Street Journal
"Master of her craft."--Anne Tyler, The Boston GlobeFrom Publishers Weekly:
Readers who enjoy Jhabvala's wry, insightful, cooly controlled novels (Heat and Dust, etc.) will find much to appreciate in this chronicle of successive generations of a polyglot family, spanning much of the 20th century. A grandmother in this quirky, endearing clan, called "Baby" by everyone, begins narrating the saga. Baby's father, Kavi, comes from a merchant family in India and spends his life in New York writing poetry about how he longs to return there, but never does. Baby's mother, Elsa, prefers to be in London, where she shares a stormy relationship with a female companion and becomes entranced by a spiritual guru called "the Master." Baby, as idiosyncratic as the rest of her family, conceives her daughter Renata during a fight with her estranged husband. Renata, in turn, refuses to marry the father of her son, Henry, who wonders if the man sleeping on their living room couch is his father or whether his father is the Master, who knew of his coming before he was born. Jhabvala handles this highly sophisticated, complicated story with sinuous skill, evoking the family's world of shabby bohemian gentility while creating fascinating characters made more credible by her wise portrayal of their emotional states. Absorbing, too, is the relationship between East and West, as reflected in these characters' divided personalities. Though some jokes run on far too long and there is not enough dialogue between certain protagonists, Jhabvala searchingly explores the persistence of the "odd shards and fragments of the past"?memories that form in the "chrysalis of the mind," eventually "to emerge and fly about on their own."
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Penguin, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 140250883