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Set largely in Delhi between 1980 and 2010, the nine interlinked stories in The House Next to the Factory follow Kavya and her post-Partition immigrant family, their servants, tutors, cousins and lovers, their loneliness, aspirations, and small-scale ambitions.

Life in the house is humdrum and confining, but on a rare evening Kavya sets out in search of a nun; a beloved teacher is caught in the aftermath of the anti-Sikh riots; in England, an aunt reads William Trevor and pines for all that she has left behind; the family’s steel utensil business blossoms, and amid the clanging of metal and the churning of machines, the household transitions from bourgeois to elite. Yet at thirty, Kavya finds herself in Paris, hoping to get past the sorrows of her young life…

Delicate and finely textured, Sonal Kohli’s extraordinary debut lays bare the complexities of class and culture, even as it evokes the loves and triumphs, the pull of incongruous desires and the tragedies of everyday life.

 

Sharply perceived, evocatively written, brilliantly minimalistic, the stories in The House Next to the Factory announce the arrival of a major new literary talent. This is a book about Delhi, a Delhi that many of us know well: of unexciting daily lives, of middle-class aspirations, and of sweeping change. Yet it is a Delhi we have seldom encountered in fiction, and The House Next to the Factory represents the lives of its characters so unforgettably that once we have read these stories, we will perhaps never be able to walk the streets of the great city without calling them to mind. Sonal Kohli’s stories reminded me of Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders; the interconnected narratives keep reprising in my head months after I first read them.

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