The Living

Anjali Joseph

There is a certain number of breaths each of us have to take, and no amount of care or carelessness can alter that.

This is the story of two lives. Claire is a young single mother working in one of England’s last remaining shoe factories, her adult life formed by a teenage relationship. Is she ready to move on from memory and the routine of her days? Arun makes hand-sewn chappals at his home in Kolhapur. A recovered alcoholic, now a grandfather, he negotiates the newfound indignities of old age while returning in thought to the extramarital affair he had years earlier.

These are lives woven through with the ongoing discipline of work and the responsibility and tedium of family life. Lives laced with the joys of friendship, the pleasure of sex, and the redemptive kindness of one’s own children. This is the story of the living.

In this tender, lyrical and often funny novel, Anajli Joseph, author of Saraswati Park, shines a light on everyday life, illuminating its humour, beauty, and truth.

Reviews of The Living

  • ‘An extraordinary portrait of two lives that moves between Norwich and smalltown India poses fundamental questions about existence … The Living asks, with a great, moving, unostentatious urgency, and a groundswell that remains with you long after you’ve read it, a question that probably only the novel, as a form, can ask: how do these moments and events add up to “our” life, and what is it in our awareness that leads to this sense of ownership, especially when awareness is extinguished recurrently at night, or with drunkenness or fatigue? How, on waking, do these memories and lacerations once more become our own? Joseph’s is a deep and unusual talent; she attends to questions for which not every novelist is equipped. The Living is an exceptional, unexpected work’ Amit Chaudhuri, Guardian

    ‘This is the award-winning Joseph’s third novel and its restraint, precision and assurance confirm that she is a rare talent’ Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

    ‘Rather like a Dardenne Brothers or Ken Loach film … The moment in itself is forever charged by complexity and sometimes, no small amount of wonder … This third novel is her most satisfying and accomplished, speaking its wisdom in whispers’ Arifa Akbar, Independent

    ‘The novel is best when excavating inner lives, and the most satisfying scenes deal with characters’ seething discontent with life’ Anita Sethi, Observer

    ‘A beautiful and profound book that distils, with uncanny precision and truthfulness, the flow and movement of inner lives deep under the surface of things. Joseph has dug at one of the hardest spots in the terrain of form and come up with a luminous and rare jewel’ Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others

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