[Updated September 2015 – We have added some new Novels to the list]
India has produced many revered and highly acclaimed English fiction and novel writers who have garnered prestigious literary awards such as the Pulitzer and the Booker Prize, in the last few decades. Although English has been passed over in India as a colonial tradition, the novels written in English have been deeply expressive, rich and culturally embedded. Check out some of the top selling Indian novels you’ll love reading:
The God of Small Things
by Arundhati Roy
Roy’s Magnum Opus won the Booker Prize award in 1997 and till date stands as one of the most celebrated Indian novels on both the national and international literary platforms. The story is set in Kerala and revolves around the lives of two children Rahel and Esthepa and how they weave and imagine their childhood experiences while constantly trying to cope up with their highly dysfunctional family. It narrates a poignant tale about love, betrayal and kinship ties. Roy’s political propensities too are vividly fleshed out through this text as the novel deals with questions of caste, class and discrimination.
by Amitav Ghosh
Written in 1988 by the Padma Shree Award winning Indian writer Amitav Ghosh, Shadow Lines is an invigorating story about the borders that mark and limit our imaginations and memories. The story essentially revolves around the narrator who is trying to consistently juggle through memories and events from past and present in hopes of finding closures and answers to his life. Written in a non-linear manner, there are consistent references to major historical events such as the Swadeshi movement, the Second World War, the Partition of India and the Communal riots of the 60s in Dhaka and Kolkata. As you can expect, this book won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1989.
by Anita Desai
Fasting, Feasting was shortlisted for the Booker Prize award in 1999. It is a story which reveals the deeply entrenched patriarchal family system of India. Set in a small town, it narrates the life of Uma, a grey haired spinster who feels smothered and imprisoned by her parents. The novel seeks to show how daughters in Indian families are always burdened with many responsibilities and eventually are forced to sacrifice their own aspirations and dreams in this process. It is an endearing novel which seeks to open a conversation between family values, cultural norms and individual aspirations.
A Suitable Boy
by Vikram Seth
Published in 1993, A Suitable Boy went on to win the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize Award the following year. A thick heavy bound book with around one thousand four hundred pages, it is one of the longest Indian novels ever to be published. The story is about a mother who is in search of a suitable boy for her daughter’s marriage. Set in post-independence India, the novel constantly engages with the events and the anxieties which shaped the nation building processes immediately after the independence and the partition. It is an engaging epic about romance, love, politics and families. Be ready to read this familial saga over a few months!
Train to Pakistan
by Khushwant Singh
This historical novel narrates the events that marked the partition of India in 1947. It revolves around the people of a village which geographically lies on the border of India and Pakistan. Through his character development and storytelling skills, Singh implores the readers to incorporate a more humanitarian world view. It is a haunting narrative about conflict, war and violence and seeks to formulate a social understanding of such communal situations without taking any sides or making any sensational political commentary.
Cutting For Stone
by Abraham Verghese
This novel is about twins, Marion and Shiva, born to an Indian nun and British surgeon, who are orphaned with their mom’s death and dad’s disappearance in Addis Ababa. Set in Ethiopia and New York, it is about family, betrayal and medicine. This best selling novel has sold over a million copies till date and written by Abraham Verghese who is also a physician and a professor. The book was released in 2009
by Amit Chaudhary
This novel, set in the Bombay of the 1970s and ’80s, looks at two families whose fortunes are connected by music (he himself is a talented musician). The author, Amit Chaudhary himself being a talented musician brings much authenticity to it. The main protagonist Shyam Lal, the son of a singer, teaches music to support his family. His student Mallika Sengupta’s musical ambitions are dulled by luxury. Her son, Nirmalya, is captivated by philosophy and incredulous of Shyamji’s material pursuits. This is about music in a modern world. This is must read for musically inclined.
An Obedient Father
By Akhil Sharma
This novel released in year 2000 is written by US based Akhil Sharma. The story revolves around Ram Karan a corrupt official, who sexually abused his daughter when she was younger. Now, his recently widowed daughter and eight-year-old granddaughter are forced to move in with him. This is a book about the consequences.
The White Tiger
By Aravind Adiga
This novel released in year 2008 was debut novel and won the prestigious Booker prize for fiction. The protagonist of the story, Balram Halwai, narrates his life to the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao: how the son of a rickshaw puller works as a chauffeur in Delhi and then flees to Bangalore after killing his employer, stealing his money and becoming a successful businessman. A fascinating fictional story that is fast paced as well as gripping.
Indian novels, as this list suggests, offer a wide and an extensive array of options. Along with the powerful political and cultural engagement, these novels ensure a riveting experience to readers.
[This list is personal and is subjective, so before making any comments please understand that you might think differently]