The Book of Everlasting Things

Flatiron. Dec. 2022. 480p. ISBN 9781250802026. $29.99. F
DEBUT New Delhi–born artist and oral historian Malhotra has written extensively about the 1947 Partition of India, including the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize–shortlisted Remnants of Partition: 21 Objects from a Continent Divided, and she brings that knowledge to her first novel, rendering history in human, often poignant images. One January morning in 1938, Samir Vij, apprentice perfumer and a Hindu, meets Firdaus Khan, calligrapher’s apprentice and a Muslim, in his family’s ittar (a fragrant essential oil) shop in Lahore. Time passes, and their friendship deepens into love, until they find themselves on opposite sides of the border after Partition. The story glides back and forth in time, through two World Wars and the Partition and the recent past. Secrets are revealed, the intricacies of calligraphy and perfume-making are described, and the consequences of decisions made are recounted. Near the novel’s end, Samir sums it up: “It is difficult to forget, but it is even harder to keep remembering.” It will be difficult indeed to forget this exquisite story.
VERDICT A long and luxurious tale of love, loss, memory, and place, told against a backdrop of tumultuous historical events.
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