Leela - alluring, taciturn, haunted - is moving back to Delhi from New York. She knows her return will unsettle precariously balanced lives. Twenty-two years ago her sister was seduced by Vyasa, a young university lecturer. Now an eminent Sanskrit scholar, Vyasa is preparing for the unlikely marriage of his son, Ash, to the child of a Hindu nationalist. Compounding Leela's disruptive presence, Ash's hedonistic twin sister Bharati arrives from London, reluctantly leaving her cosmopolitan university life to see Ash married. Ash, meanwhile, has fallen in love with his brother-in-law to be.
Gleefully presiding over the drama is Ganesh - divine, elephant-headed scribe of India's great epic, the Mahabharata. The family patriarchs may think they have arranged the wedding for their own selfish ends, but according to Ganesh it is he who is directing events - in a bid to save Leela, his beloved heroine, from his devious enemy Vyasa.
Turning to fiction after an award-winning travel book, Alice Albinia has written a brilliantly playful and genre-defying first novel. Ambitious and entertaining, Leela's Book weaves a tale of contemporary Delhi that crosses religious and social boundaries, reaching back into the origins of the Mahabharata itself.
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A bold and delightful novel, executed with energy and flair... Albinia has pulled off the remarkable trick of melding a story about modern family ties with a timeless tale about gods and avatars. Leela's Book is as much a meditation on tensions between brothers and sisters, or between parents and their children, as it is a rumination on the nature of storytelling. For a novel so thick in plot, and so lush with details of Indian life, it reads effortlessly. The result is magnificent. - Financial Times Weekend
Leela's Book is a stimulating novel in which Albinia skilfully manages an intricate plot and an enormous, diverse cast of characters. Her immense historical acumen and sophisticated sense of culture have enabled her to craft a powerful tale - The Guardian
Bold, playful, smart and lively. - Time Out
An epic, polyphonic juggernaut of a novel. Ambitious, skilfully plotted, and full of wonderful surprises. I was hooked from the very first page. - Tahmima Anam, author of A Golden Age
This is steeped in the tradition of the Indian epic, yet modern and vastly entertaining. - The Times
Alice Albinia writes with tender acuity, and without illusions, of her characters' foibles. She brings that same unsparing, illuminating gaze to bear upon Delhi and India in this wise and lovely novel. - Amit Chaudhuri
Born in 1976, Alice Albinia read English Literature at Cambridge, and South Asian History at SOAS. In between, she worked for two years in Delhi as a journalist and editor. Her previous book, Empires of the Indus, won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Authors' Club Dolman Travel Award and the Jerwood/Royal Society of Literature Prize.