One of the joys of being a book review blogger is I get to read books I would have never come across in my normal book reading encounters. Latitudes of Longing by Mumbai-based writer Shubhangi Swarup is the latest book encounter outside of my normal reading experience. This book was presented to me through a Goodreads friend recommendation and has received quite a bit of praise especially in her native India.
Latitudes of Longing is actually four novellas linked together through characters that appear in each story of the book. The titles for each novella are Islands, Faultline, Valley, and Snow Desert and they set-up the environmental nature of the book. Also, I learned about The Andaman Islands, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar (known as Burma). Swarup captures these islands beautifully in all four novellas and how the characters interact with the place as well each other.
My favorite novella, Islands, tells the story of scientist Girija Prasad and his wife, Chanda Devi. Girija studies trees while Chanda has the ability to communicate with them. This dichotomy into their new marriage reveals itself in surprising ways throughout the story.
Latitudes of Longing was first published in 2018 and became a bestseller in India. I can see why this book was favorite for many Indian readers as well as judges for literary awards from around the world. Swarup presents a place that’s unfamiliar to a Western literary audience in such fashion that can capture a reader’s imagination. Hopefully this review will bring a few more readers to this interesting, genre-bending work of art.