Set in 1966 Calcutta, the Ghosh family represents the nation as it battles an imploding business and family battles
✎ The Lives of Others is a big book in every sense of the word. It has many pages, many characters and many plot lines. There are a lot of events, and much historical and social complexities covered.
It is set in Calcutta in the 1960s and focuses on the large and wealthy Ghosh family all of whom live together. Each set of family members occupies a floor of the home, in accordance to their standing within the family. The head of the family is Prafullanath who has made his money via several paper mills. One of the main plot lines involves the eldest grandson, Supratik who has joined the community party and is working secretly to mobilise peasants against landlords.
Entwined with this are the poisonous rivalries and secrets of other family members, a risk to the family business and the unrest of Indian society.
You take away economic security and the whole pack of cards collapses. Everyone is at each other’s throats. All these vaunted bourgeois values that prop up society – love, duty, honour, respect – all rest on power-relations lubricated by economics. They are the gloss people put on the naked truth: self-interest.
✎ “The harrowing opening pages provide the perfect juxtaposition to the petty woes of the Ghosh family whom we are soon introduced to. It is this contrast reiterated throughout which drew me into the story. There is a huge cast of characters, all of whom are well-developed, and sometimes the sheer amount of people and events and detail was overwhelming and difficult to track. Those who love a family saga will love it, but I did start to struggle as the pages went on.” – Rachel
Chatto & Windus