I relish books that take me to different geographies, show me how a land breathes and lives. Latitudes of Longing, in that sense, is rich in its sprawl. Beginning with the story of Girija Prasad and Chanda Devi in the Andamans the story took me across continents through an intricately woven tapestry of people and stories within stories to eventually end in a full circle.

There is an intensity that is rooted in every page of the book, an energy that crackles in the air. This is most palpable in “Islands,” the first section of the book where Girija Prasad, Chanda Devi, and Mary inhabit a dreamlike world. There was some extremely luminous writing here, a lush blend of magical realism and breathtaking descriptions of the natural beauty of the Andamans.

But despite this very magnetic pull, which kept me going at full tilt with no breaks, the book loses steam somewhere around the latter half. It’s as if it starts to slow down to catch its breath because from a very primordial, passionate state it moves to a more philosophical, thoughtful one.

Latitudes of Longing is a complex, multi-layered book that eludes immediate understanding. It makes you traverse through various realms – spiritual, intellectual, and physical, and even something in between. Perhaps, it’s this constant journey that induces a disconnected feeling many times throughout the book. Written more like short stories that intersect, it’s difficult, for example, to snap out of that enchanted state that “Islands” put you in to a grimmer, fractured world that makes up the second section named “Faultline.” And as sensuous and alluring Swarup’s writing is, it does tend to obfuscate the storyline with repetitive and excessively mystical sentences.  

That said, the book does ooze with Swarup’s talent for the written word and the ability to spin tales from even the tiniest fragment of thought. I would be definitely watching out for her next story to sweep me into dimensions unknown.

Rating: 3.8/5

Pic courtesy: Penguin Randomhouse

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