Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: Journey to Ithaca by Anita Desai

On the jacket:

Matteo and Sophie join the 1970s flight of young Europeans to India. Matteo - Italian, raised in the luscious countryside around Lake Como, restless since childhood - has been introduced by a tutor to Hermann Hesse's The Journey to the East, and it opens in him a desperate longing. Sophie - German, practical, worldly - is willing to follow him to the ends of the earth. In India, together they visit swamis, gurus, ashrams - always searching. Matteo is seeking spiritual enlightenment, but for Sophie fulfillment lies in earthly love. And when they meet a holy woman known as the Mother, the differences between them seem to explode. When we learn the Mother's story, we see it as an earlier version of their own - the story of a young girl growing up in Cairo and finding her way East by joining a troupe of Indian dancers she has met in Europe. Her journey, a young woman's daring progress through Paris and Venice and New York, until she finds her moment of transcendence in India, comments on, and gives added breadth to, the young couple's quest.


Anita Desai is a master story-teller. Journey to Ithaca is people's journey to attain contentment, written in a very detailed format. Three people are on the journey and the book is a description of their travels to different parts of the world. 

Emotions and people, their reactions to actions are beautifully depicted. Matteo comes to India to get away from everything. Sophie follows suit only because she loves Matteo. While Sophie and Matteo live in India, the conditions they live in deteriorates and Matteo keeps drifting apart from her and closer to 'mother'. Sophie is convinced 'mother is a fraud and to prove it she travels across the world from Europe to US, to finally return to India but instead of the truth, she is armed with more complexities. She keeps travelling. Her reasons have changed. The people in her life have changed, moved away or are no more. But she keeps travelling...

Rating: ***/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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