Two estranged sisters; a family secret that has lain buried for decades: a search for the truth, shocking, poignant, and life-affirming, Radhika Swarups “Civil Lines” (Simon & Schuster) is a family saga that explores belonging and an ode to every girl who dreams not of being rescued by a prince but that of a brighter future that lies within her grasp. This is what the book Civil Lines states.
In the early 1990s, Rupa Sharma found a magazine and pens her first — and last — editorial: “The future has never looked brighter. The fires of communal tension appear to have been vanquished. More women are entering the workforce than ever before, and everywhere I look, I see new possibilities. I see the dialogue, I see tolerance, and I see openness. I see hope for myself and my colleagues, and for the two daughters I am bringing up to be fearless inheritors of this earth.”
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Decades later, her daughter Siya travels to Delhi in the wake of her reclusive mother’s death, leaving behind a failing relationship and an unraveling life. Waiting at home is her estranged sister Maya and a crumbling Lutyens behemoth that is proving too cumbersome to maintain.
The two sisters rattle around the house until a cryptic note falls out from their mother’s papers: “I saw last night as a meeting between old friends. That you considered my conduct over-familiar fills me with endless regret.”
As Siya and Maya try to decipher the words and piece together what happened, they find themselves uncovering both dreams and long-buried secrets, finding new resolve as they look to breathe fresh life into their mother’s shattered vision.
Radhika Swarup is the author of “Where the River Parts” (2016), which was picked as one of Amazon India’s most memorable books of the year and longlisted for the Best First Novel Award of the Author’s Club. She studied at Cambridge University and worked in finance before turning to write. Swarup lives in London with her husband and two children and divides her time between England and India. (IANS)