Brimming with characters whose lives overlap and whose stories interweave, Champaneri’s exquisite debut delves into the consequences of the past, and how stories that are told can become reality even when they contain barely a shred of truth. As Pramesh discovers, the bitterness of past wounds can bring hope for redemption and life.
Throughout this epic, Champaneri remains attuned to such atmospheric details, both physical and emotional ... If this initial setup is operatic, the haunting is surprisingly ordinary. Champaneri subtly renders how grief lurks in mundane objects and gestures ... Champaneri shifts among the perspectives of his wife, his assistant and other characters inside and outside of Kashi, who also harbor anxieties about the ghost and their own private histories. The novel remains an intimate portrait of Pramesh, and yet the other characters allow Champaneri to articulate how grief and healing are social processes ... Just as grief descends, sudden and sweeping, so too can wonder and joy.
Priyanka Champaneri's debut novel, goes beyond revisiting the rituals involved in such dying. The main question being explored here is: What, indeed, is a 'good death'? Is it really about liberation? Or is it simply a transformation of the body from one material form to another while the soul goes elsewhere? ... Stories are crammed within stories. Characters tell tales that are folklore, myth, reminiscences or dreams. All stories deeply alter their existence and relationships ... Champaneri's descriptive prose is precise and evocative. Aside from a few incongruous Western phrases and awkwardly translated terms, she does not exoticize or erase any relevant aspects of the sociocultural milieu. The classic cliffhanger at the end of almost every chapter isn't contrived but integral to the story and its arcs ... At times, the narrative pace gallops when it should amble and vice versa as the author tries to give most of the large cast of characters meaningful arcs.
A mysterious death brings chaos and clarity in Priyanka Champaneri’s novel ... Lush prose evokes the thick, close atmosphere of Kashi and the intricate religious practices upon which life and death depend. Rumor and superstition hold sway over even the most level-headed people, twisting what’s explainable into something extraordinary—with tragic consequences. The resolution is like a sigh of relief after the previous intensity, promising new starts and peaceful futures. The City of Good Death is a breathtaking, unforgettable novel about how remembering the past is just as important as moving on.
... wonderful descriptive passages...bring to life the ancient city of Kashi and its age-old customs and rituals, the conglomeration of devotees, the constantly bustling streets, and the holy river Ganga ... Champaneri’s sprawling novel delicately navigates the relations of life and death, childhood and memory, love, hate, friendship, human bonding, and relationships that are beyond human understanding. The most interesting aspect of the novel is the interaction between the natural and the supernatural. While the general tone of the novel approaches social realism, the heart of the work is fantastical ... While an acceptance of the religio-mythical structure within which the characters exist is palpable from the beginning of The City of Good Death, such qualities never overwhelm the strongly drawn characters grounded in known reality ... This smooth transition between the natural and supernatural exhibits a sincerity of style that, while suggesting symbolisms of love, loss, and human bonding (as hinted at by the book’s other epigraph by Rabindranath Tagore), also endorses a mythical worldview. While there is nothing wrong in telling a ghost story in a straightforward manner (after all, readers enter a ghost story suspending their disbeliefs), the overt social realism and psychological realism employed to relate such a supernatural tale sometimes create an Orientalist effect resembling the 'timeless and spiritual' India often perpetuated by Western literature and media ... the best quality of the work is its descriptive passages narrated in lush and evocative prose. Wonderful images—languid mornings over Ganga, bustling bazaars, the awkward seriousness of the death hostel, the green fields of Pramesh’s village, crowded railway carriages—pervade this voluminous work[.]
Priyanka Champaneri’s debut novel The City of Good Death , nothing is so easy, and memory proves as persistent as a lingering spirit 'determined to be heard,' holding tight to the living until fulfilling its purpose. This novel could be seen as one cleaved in two, with mysteries unfolding discreetly in the realms of women and of men, and Champaneri deftly balances the weight of expectation and introspection, of skepticism and faith, and what is sought out and what is hidden. As the city stirs with gossip and intrigue, Pramesh and Shobha deal with hauntings of all kinds, their stories weaving around one another to reveal the intersection of love and grief, and perhaps even illuminating some of the mysteries of the Land of the Dead.
Champaneri’s Kashi is teeming and vivid, but her prose can sometimes feel overdone. The story sags in places. Most interesting are the flashbacks to Pramesh and Sagar’s childhood, but these moments often feel rushed. It’s possible that Champaneri is trying to fit in too much ... Still, the book frequently charms, and it's as full of humor, warmth, and mystery as Kashi’s own marketplace. Uneven but charming, Champaneri’s debut intrigues even as the writing occasionally sags.
In Champaneri’s ambitious, vivid debut, the dying come to the holy city of Kashi to die a good death that frees them from the burden of reincarnation ... Champaneri explores the power of stories—those the characters tell themselves, those told about them, and those they believe—such as an ingrained narrative of Kamna as a 'shameless woman' in Pramesh’s village, which Shobha, mindful of women’s oppression in their society, gradually chips away at. This epic, magical story of death teems with life.