Mistaken Identity by Nayantara Sahgal

Kin in spirit to both Evelyn Waugh and Salman Rushdie, Sahgal focuses on a young rich playboy in 1920s India. He is an apolitical poet who is mistakenly arrested and spends years in prison in British held India charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government. It is a black humored story, but not quite satire, more a fairy tale in which other Indians arrested for trying to raise consciousness are large hearted fools who will die to make a small point in an overwhelmingly bad situation. The tone is very secular: Whether you are surrounded by Colonials, Muslims, or Hindus, you are in trouble if you even inadvertently stir their stagnant waters.

A Death in the Family by James Agee

A Death in the FamilyAgee (pronounced Age-ee)’s exquisitely detailed tale of the dynamics and subtle emotions at a time of crisis was an eye-opening view for me into nonconformists of the early 20th century, and into how such people might interact with the mainstream religious people they love. There are no surprises, given the title, and the ending feels inadequate. I also felt that the preacher’s visit was an odd and out of place low-comic punch. But it is one of those classics I had to gobble down.

Reviewed by Teresa

Fludd by Hilary Mantel

Quirky, funny and spooky, Hilary Mantel is up on my shelf with others of her ilk: Flannery O’Connor, Grace Paley, Muriel Spark…Like my favorite writers, she shows human nature at its obliquest. Is she condemning religion? Forgiving it? Relishing its oddities? Are all of her characters nuts? Or is that the true state of all of us? Her plot both shouts and whispers. Try her. If you like it, AH! Lucky you, you then have many more novels to devour.

Reviewed by Teresa