From the Booker Prize-nominated author of Sleeping on Jupiter and All the Lives We Never Lived comes a novel about the struggle for creative achievement in a world consumed by growing fanaticism and political upheaval.
... carefully crafted ... it is Roy’s longstanding fascination with the figure of the artist, who fathoms new objects from what the earth has to offer, that is fully fleshed out in this novel ... What propels the book forward is this constant brink of possibility and potential for transformation ... Although set in the 80s, The Earthspinner captures the mood of sectarian strife and futile fanaticism in contemporary India. And yet it is a quiet, gentle work, never gratuitous; Roy does not care to make grand political statements, nor is she interested in presenting a 'novel of ideas' ... Intricate yet intimate, the novel allows imagination to fill the rest – as all good fiction should ... The art of pottery is one of the most ancient human inventions, handed down from generation to generation. The Earthspinner also advocates for a gift: a harmonious sense of humanity. When forged with fire, both stand the test of time.
Roy’s description of the relationship between Elango and Chinna is so devastating that it is the forced abandonment of the dog that most poignantly comes to reflect the toll of human violence ... It is Roy’s ability to create perfectly formed characters – human, animal or terracotta – that gives this novel its unique quality. The Earthspinner is a love story, a political statement and a reflection on solitude, its primary preoccupation with the role of creation in the life of an artist.
'What just happened?' I found myself asking aloud upon coming to the end of The Earthspinner, Anuradha Roy’s fifth novel. For several days after reading, I held on to a pinching disappointment — the novel closes without resolve, and I found myself returning to the book, wondering why Roy had built a world of such rich possibilities just to leave so many unrealized. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of what would become a complicated journey with the novel, leading me to a deep gratitude for this work ... Subtlety is a trademark for Roy, whose novels have been praised and prized for their understated elegance. She’s particularly adept at using past trauma and geographic displacement to illuminate her characters’ present ... While a tale of star-crossed lovers is hardly unique, the specificities here — a ceramist and a calligrapher in 1970s India — feel fresh, and Roy’s ability to channel her characters’ inner lives is as thrilling as ever. At the same time, gluttons for plot, especially those who appreciate stakes high enough to raise pulses, might find themselves in the same predicament I was, unsure of why Roy set up this perfect confrontation and played it out so quietly ... And this, I will admit, is what initially rankled me. What does it mean when a novel’s resolve refuses to make sense of the trauma at its center? When a book’s conflict feels unmet by its conclusion? I have been surprised to find my dissatisfaction bending me back toward the book, prompting me to reconsider the nature of exile, of aging, of shared trauma, of what we carry into our present day from a past that did not protect us ... In this way, the novel feels like waking from a long, unsettling, unshakable dream. Yes, we understand it’s just a dream, but we also can’t help feeling the depth of a dream’s persuasion, the way certain truths might later clamber from the subconscious to the surface, changing us. Which is all to say, my love for The Earthspinner did not come in a neat package, but rather from the way it elicits a kind of confusion that turns into preoccupation; how it requires one to hold in one’s mind the story’s many complicated pieces, even after the novel reaches its end; the way it ignites an obsessive wondering that must run its course before a dreamer can wake, body facing an unforeseen direction, ready to take on a different kind of work.