Five Indian Historical Fiction Must-Reads

Panhuman Books — February 3, 2023

In your quest to broaden your horizons, Indian literature should have a prominent place on your reading list. Reading the best historical fiction India has to offer will give you a more in-depth understanding of this remarkable company, its diverse culture, and the unique events that shaped it into what it is today. These books pack a lot of entertainment value, too.

The following popular Indian literature options provide a great starting point.

A Fine Balance

by Rohinton Mistry

Published in 1995, this book takes a look back to the ‘Emergency’ declared by Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister in the late 1970s. The story follows four strangers taking shelter in a tiny apartment to survive a time of corruption and cruelty. It is a stunning glimpse into divers’ lives and the human spirit in the face of fear.

This prominent piece of Indian literature won the Giller Prize in 1995 and hit the Booker Prize short list the following year. Additional accolades came from various newspapers that declared it a ‘must-read’ and an all-time great.

The Glass Palace

by Amitav Ghosh

The story of multiple people across India and other nations affected by the Third Anglo-Burmese War and the Second World War dives deep into the colonial times and struggles. The problems of the greater world are seen through the main character, Rajkumar, who grows up and finds love amid the struggles.

It was published in 2000 and quickly attracted various awards. A US national bestseller, it also received the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best Book in 2001, the Grand Prize for Fiction, and earned a spot on the New York Times’ Notable Books list.

The Henna Artist

by Alka Joshi

Book # 1 in a trilogy, this historical fiction novel was a New York Times best seller and won critical acclaim worldwide. It describes the life of an abused young woman who elevates herself beyond the expectations of the 1950s. Her story weaves lines and patterns as complicated as the beautiful henna designs she offers to the upper class acquaintances. The moving tale dives deep into class and gender conflicts while grabbing reader attention and holding it tightly.

Train to Pakistan

by Khushwant Singh

Delve back to the days in 1947 right after Pakistan formally became its own state, and experience the horror of political and social upheaval in the midst of monsoon chaos. This stunning piece of historical literature narrows down the conflict to the arrival of a ghost train – a train packed with thousands of dead refugees – that turns a small village and the people who live there into unwilling participants in the greater struggle beyond their borders.

A Rising Man

by Abir Mukherjee

This historical mystery reaches back to 1919 in colonial Calcutta. A British detective yearning for a fresh start to life is thrust back into action when an unusual murder occurs. Rather than focusing on a specific cultural or societal issue affecting Indian characters, this story paints an intriguing picture of difficulties of acclimating to a new place from a different perspective. It won various awards in 2017 when it debuted including the Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month.

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