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China Room  By  cover art

China Room

By: Sunjeev Sahota
Narrated by: Indira Varma,Antonio Aakeel
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Publisher's Summary

Longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize
Finalist for the American Library Association's Carnegie Medal
Named a Best Book of 2021 by NPR, Time, and The Star-Tribune

“Sunjeev Sahota's new novel follows characters across generations and continents...Heart-wrenching.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“An intimate page-turner with a deeper resonance as a tale of oppression, independence and resilience.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

A transfixing, "powerfully imaged" (USA Today) novel about two unforgettable characters seeking to free themselves - one from the expectations of women in early 20th-century Punjab, and the other from the weight of life in the contemporary Indian diaspora

Mehar, a young bride in rural 1929 Punjab, is trying to discover the identity of her new husband. Married to three brothers in a single ceremony, she and her now-sisters spend their days hard at work in the family’s “china room,” sequestered from contact with the men - except when their domineering mother-in-law, Mai, summons them to a darkened chamber at night. Curious and strong willed, Mehar tries to piece together what Mai doesn’t want her to know. From beneath her veil, she studies the sounds of the men’s voices, the calluses on their fingers as she serves them tea. Soon she glimpses something that seems to confirm which of the brothers is her husband, and a series of events is set in motion that will put more than one life at risk. As the early stirrings of the Indian independence movement rise around her, Mehar must weigh her own desires against the reality - and danger - of her situation.

Spiraling around Mehar’s story is that of a young man who arrives at his uncle’s house in Punjab in the summer of 1999, hoping to shake an addiction that has held him in its grip for more than two years. Growing up in small-town England as the son of an immigrant shopkeeper, his experiences of racism, violence, and estrangement from the culture of his birth led him to seek a dangerous form of escape. As he rides out his withdrawal at his family’s ancestral home - an abandoned farmstead, its china room mysteriously locked and barred - he begins to knit himself back together, gathering strength for the journey home.

Partly inspired by award-winning author Sunjeev Sahota’s family history, China Room is both a deft exploration of how systems of power circumscribe individual lives and a deeply moving portrait of the unconquerable human capacity to resist them. At once sweeping and intimate, lush and propulsive, it is a stunning achievement from a contemporary master.

©2021 Sunjeev Sahota (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

Named a best book of the summer by Time, Lit Hub, Book Riot, and AARP

Named a best book of July by Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, PopSugar, and Apartment Therapy 

“Sahota is an enormously gifted writer...a bold storyteller who seems to have learned as many tricks from TV as from Tolstoy, and has a jeweller’s unillusioned eye for the goods.... Lovely phrases glitter.... Sahota’s ability to shine a phrase is not bought for the usual steep formalist price, at the expense of simplicity, intimate feeling, and solid representation. He’s both camera and painter, in a literary world that often separates those novelistic tasks.” (James Wood, The New Yorker

“[China Room] forges telling and skillful connections between the two very different eras, showing the ways that a place - a house, a room - can store up pieces of a remarkable past and release them, generations later, when someone comes looking.” (The Wall Street Journal

"[An] intense, heartrending novel.” (The Washington Post

What listeners say about China Room

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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China Room Confusion

Difficult to follow the story. One time frame blended woven into another and had great difficulty figuring out what was happening to whom, which wife belonged to which brother.

6 people found this helpful

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Sunjeev Sahota does not disappoint!

The story of The China Room is one that I’ve never heard or imagined before. A cunning, shrewd, evil mother-in-law who marries off her three sons to three girls without the girls knowing which brother is their husband!
The author’s writing style and unraveling of the facts are just superb! It’s like he coolly drops bombs in the form of words!
I would definitely rate it as4.5*

4 people found this helpful

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Great chronicler and stylist

Such beautiful, enchanting language, it's like a painting superimposed on photograph. An old tale, with notes of a contemporary story, reflecting a much larger social realm, delivered with shining phrases.

3 people found this helpful

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Highly recommended

So many questions at the end. This book will stay with me for a long time.

2 people found this helpful

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lasting love stories

loved this book set in two time periods in India. a glimpse into the hard life of women without choice. beautifully written

1 person found this helpful