The first book of fiction by Mumbai-based journalist Swarup is made up of four linked novellas. Their titles—'Islands', 'Faultline', 'Valley', and 'Snow Desert'—suggest the book’s emphasis on how people connect (or don’t) to their planet.
Lyrical prose and sweeping landscapes of Southeast Asia coupled with scientific interest make this work an absolutely groundbreaking experience ... Monsoons, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and musings of volcanic activity and continental drift serve as a vibrant backdrop for this “novella in four parts.” Four disparate stories are connected like a baton being passed between runners in a relay race ... These collective stories deepen the understanding of the eternal longing suffered by the people, their ghosts, and the planet.
A sometimes riveting, sometimes long-winded journey through physical and metaphysical landscapes ... beautifully written in lush, lyrical prose ... a huge amount of research went into Latitudes of Longing. To Swarup’s credit the novel never feels weighed down with its ambitious backdrop. Her narrative may encompass everything from the ecology of tropical islands to the mistreatment of Burmese political prisoners, but she manages to keep it all within the vivid, living world of her characters ... Swarup’s mind-bending narrative gives us talking ghosts and glaciers, but in a way that feels original and real ... The novel is full of interesting historical and cultural details ... Readers will stay with Swarup for these vibrant creations, and for the depth of her insights. Her novel on the importance of connectedness and the dangers of repeating past mistakes feels particularly pertinent right now.
... unfurls into a book of fairy tales, stories woven together by a few recurring characters and a pervasive prose style ... Swarup’s prose is both the novel’s highlight and what holds it back. On the plus side, there is no sensory detail or wisp of an idea that goes unexplored. Fully fleshed out are the movements of water, passage of time, presence of the mountains, and transfer of one life to another ... However, while this prose is spellbinding in small doses, it results in fatigue ... The narrative can feel weighed down by heavy, detailed prose, as well as deep introspection by each and every character. Additionally, the novel has few moments of levity, and can go many pages without dialogue. The dialogues featured are often philosophical musings on the movements of the world. The characters sometimes laugh, but we don’t often feel laughter. Moments of happiness are few and ephemeral, with the characters’ moods constantly changing like the planet itself ... In short, this is a novel I recommend in small, incremental pieces. To read it all at once may feel like a weight on your shoulders.