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Ten Great Books set in INDIA

4th December 2021

India is the latest location for us to visit in our “Great Books set in…’ series. Ten Great Books set in India. India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: Bhārat Gaṇarājya), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. It is a country with a great religious and cultural mix.

When an elephant is in trouble, even a frog will kick him – Indian saying

Ten Great Books set in INDIAThe Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Bombay, 1921: Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a law degree from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes her especially devoted to championing and protecting women’s legal rights. Inspired in part by a real woman who made history by becoming India’s first female lawyer, The Widows of Malabar Hill is a richly wrought story of multicultural 1920s Bombay as well as the debut of a sharp and promising new sleuth, Perveen Mistry.

The Overnight Palace by Janet Marie Sola

Set in India, “The Overnight Palace is a gorgeous and sensual novel, one that readers of all kinds are sure to find enchanting,” says San Francisco Book Review. In exotic Rajasthan, India, bookish Elena seeks the romance and transcendence that have been missing from her life in San Francisco. Her quest leads her through the maze of another culture, populated by beckoning goddesses, the outrageous and sometimes tragic people she meets along the way, and a daring lover. It’s a captivating addition to the growing genre of books such as Eat, Pray, Love that explore midlife travel, romance, and transformation.

A House called Askival by Merryn Glover

James Connor is a man who, burdened with guilt following a tragic event in his youth, has dedicated his life to serving India. Ruth Connor is his estranged daughter who, as a teenager, always knew she came second to her parents missionary vocation and rebelled, with equally tragic consequences.
After 24 years away, Ruth finally returns to Askival, the family home in Mussoorie, a remote hill station in the Northern State of Uttarakhand, to tend to her dying father. There she must face the past and confront her own burden of guilt if she is to cross the chasm that has grown between them.
In this extraordinary and assured debut, Merryn Glover draws on her own upbringing as a child of missionary parents in India to create this sensitive, complex, moving and epic journey through the sights, sounds and often violent history of India from Partition to the present day.

Ten Great Books set in INDIAThe Half Mother by Shahnaz Bashir

‘The night is tired now,
the old moon, hanging in the dark sky,
is tired too’
It is the 1990s, and Kashmir’s long war has begun to claim its first
victims. Among them are Ghulam Rasool Joo, Haleema’s father, and
her teenage son Imran, who is picked up by the authorities only to
disappear into the void of Kashmir’s missing people.
The Half Mother is the story of Haleema – a mother and a
daughter yesterday, a ‘half mother’ and an orphan today; tormented
by not knowing whether Imran is dead or alive, torn apart by her
own lonely existence. While she battles for answers and seeks out
torture camps, jails and morgues for any signs of Imran, Kashmir
burns in a war that will haunt it for years to come.
Heart-wrenching, deeply troubling and written in lyrical prose, The
Half Mother marks the debut of a bold new voice from Kashmir.’

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

A novel of high adventure, great storytelling and moral purpose, based on an extraordinary true story of eight years in the Bombay underworld.

‘In the early 80s, Gregory David Roberts, an armed robber and heroin addict, escaped from an Australian prison to India, where he lived in a Bombay slum. There, he established a free health clinic and also joined the mafia, working as a money launderer, forger and street soldier. He found time to learn Hindi and Marathi, fall in love, and spend time being worked over in an Indian jail. Then, in case anyone thought he was slacking, he acted in Bollywood and fought with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan . . . Amazingly, Roberts wrote Shantaramthree times after prison guards trashed the first two versions. It’s a profound tribute to his willpower . . . At once a high-kicking, eye-gouging adventure, a love saga and a savage yet tenderly lyrical fugitive vision.’

More Bodies Will Fall by Ankush Saikia

A girl from north-east India is murdered in Delhi. The main suspect is her ‘Indian’ boyfriend, but there isn’t enough evidence to prove his guilt. Amid a growing outcry about police neglect and racial injustice, detective Arjun Arora reluctantly takes on this case. Immediately, he finds himself propelled into a tangled investigation that leads him beyond the hills of Nagaland and Manipur to the Indo-Myanmar border with new suspects emerging at every turn, including an American working at the US Embassy who may or may not be a CIA spy.
The search for answers embroils him in the dangerous new realities of the North-east–riven with strife and suffering–and also brings him face-to-face with an old enemy, culminating in an unexpected climax.

Ten Great Books set in INDIASmoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee

India, 1921. Haunted by his memories of the Great War, Captain Sam Wyndham is battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force.

When Sam is summoned to investigate a grisly murder, he is stunned at the sight of the body: he’s seen this before. Last night, in a drug addled haze, he stumbled across a corpse with the same ritualistic injuries. It seems like there’s a deranged killer on the loose. Unfortunately for Sam, the corpse was in an opium den and revealing his presence there could cost him his career.

With the aid of his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, Sam must try to solve the two murders, all the while keeping his personal demons secret, before somebody else turns up dead.

Set against the backdrop of the fervent fight for Indian independence, and rich with the atmosphere of 1920s Calcutta, Smoke and Ashes is the brilliant new historical mystery in this award-winning series.

The Portuguese House by Pamela D Holloway

After being badly let down by her husband, writer Liz O’Malley takes a holiday in Goa, in India. To her surprise she falls in love with the place, the people and an old, somewhat derelict, Portuguese house. To her sister’s equal surprise she buys the house and employs local people to return it to its former impressive glory.

At a social event she meets the widowed British Ambassador and there is a definite frisson. The beginning of a romance is shattered when one of his two sons is taken ill. The situation is further complicated when the Ambassador moves to Paris, and a wealthy German divorcee targets him for her next marriage.

Meanwhile Liz is offered a book tour of the United States and has further adventures there, accompanied by an extremely lively P.R. from her publishing house. But will it be possible for her romance to be re-kindled, and will she find happiness in her new home in the Portuguese house?

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

A modern classic, this epic tale of families, romance and political intrigue, set in India, never loses its power to delight and enchant readers.

At its core, A Suitable Boy is a love story: the tale of Lata – and her mother’s – attempts to find her a suitable husband, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. At the same time, it is the story of India, newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis as a sixth of the world’s population faces its first great general election and the chance to map its own destiny.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher) and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun, incumbent grand-aunt).

We hope you enjoy our selection of Indian books – we have almost 500 title on there site, so narrowing them down to juts 10 was quite a task. Let us know in the Comments below if we’ve missed any of your favourites…

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