Skip to content

1001 Book Review: The Shadow Lines Amitav Ghosh


Once again BookWorm and I find ourselves at different ends of the spectrum in our opinions about our latest 1001 read. Find out what we thought and let us know which one of us is more in line with your views about the book.

The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh
First published in: 2005
Reviewed by: BookWorm and Jen
Find it here: The Shadow Lines: A Novel

Synopsis (from Amazon): A wide-eyed boy growing up in suburban Calcutta in the 1960s experiences the world through the eyes of others – an intoxicating older cousin, a grandmother who weaves stories from the past and a family in London whose lives are intertwined with his. When a seemingly random act of violence threatens his vision of the world, he begins piecing together events for himself, and in the process unravels secrets with devastating consequences.

Set in Calcutta and London and spanning generations from the outbreak of the Second World War to the late twentieth century, The Shadow Lines is a haunting novel from one of the world’s greatest writers.

Book Worm’s Review
4.5 Stars
The Shadow Lines is a book about boundaries and how the random lines that separate the world into different countries affect the people who live within them. The central family is originally from Dhaka and, as the story progresses, we learn about their lives in Dhaka and the violence that eventually made them leave.

I like the way the story moves backward and forward in time — tying up loose ends and solving mysteries along the way. Despite having only one narrator, the way the author uses him to tell the stories of other people means we actually benefit from several different voices.

My favorite quote:

They were all around me, we were together at last, not ghosts at all; the ghostliness was merely the absence of time and distance – for that is all a ghost is, a presence displaced in time.

I am finding it really hard to describe this book so I will leave you with this last thought: Read It for Yourself Smiley Happy

Jen’s Review:
3 stars
I feel kind of bad about giving this book only three stars because it seems like the sort of book that I should like. I read a lot of international literature and, speaking very generally, Indian literature is among my favorite. This was my first experience reading anything by Ghosh and I was convinced that I would love it. BW and I read this for our Shelfari 1001 reading group and I voted for it to be our monthly read. There were certainly many interesting elements contained within the book and I did like the way the author used the concept of boundaries in multiple ways (between family, regions, personal boundaries, etc.). Unfortunately, the slow pace and style simply left me feeling bored and detached. On an intellectual level I could appreciate why others consider this to be a great book but from an emotional level, I just couldn’t connect with the story or the characters.

I wish I could provide a more thoughtful analysis of the book but I didn’t find it very memorable. I found our group’s discussion of the book more interesting than the book itself.

Haven’t read it? Find out who you agree with most. You can buy your copy here: The Shadow Lines: A Novel

We want to hear from you! Have you read the book? What did you think? Who do you agree with?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Tracy S. #

    I agree with Jen- I really wanted to love this book, and it didn’t do it for me. It was just okay.


    November 12, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: