Book Review ‘Everything the Light Touches’ by Janice Pariat

Title: Everything the Light Touches
Author: Janice Pariat
Pages: 512
Publisher: Fourth Estate India
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Everything the Light Touches, the most recent book by author Janice Pariat, has been nominated for the 2023 AutHer Awards in the Fiction category.
Everything the Light Touches,” which is set across continents and centuries, tells the story of four individuals who, despite being geographically and temporally separated, are connected by a shared love of travel and ecology. The narrative is an epic about journeys, discoveries, time, science, human connection, and the transience of the cosmos and existence itself.

Shai, Evelyn, Johann Philipp Möller (Goethe’s alias), and Carl are the four protagonists in Pariat’s story, which is interwoven with a web of related tales and the timeless beauty of nature. (Linnaeus).

An Indian woman in her early 30s named Shai is the story’s main protagonist. She visits her birthplace in the North East. She meets native communities there and recounts her experience in the novel. In 1911, Evelyn, a botanist from Cambridge, travels to the Himalayan forests in quest of a mysterious plant. On Goethe’s 1787 Italian tour, Johann Wolfgang, a German scholar, would pen his first scientific work, “Metamorphosis of Plants,” at the conclusion of the trip. (1790). And in 1732, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus embarks on the renowned Lapland expedition that would lead to the publication of his work, “Flora Lapponica.” (1737).

Pariat experiments with a variety of narrative techniques in the book. Shai’s character tells her own story, Goethe’s and Evelyn’s story is told by an omniscient narrator. And Linnaeus’s tale is narrated through a series of poems.

The imagination in Pariat’s novel is astoundingly vivid. Botany, travel, the contrasts between contemporary India and its colonial past, urban and rural life, capitalism, and long-standing customs of generosity and gratitude are just a few of the topics it comments on.

Also read: Book Review: Meri Ayodhya, Mera Raghuvansh by Rajeev ‘Acharya’

How Readers view the book:

Kirkus Reviews says, “Readers interested in historical fiction may want to check this out while noting that not all chapters are equally engaging.”

Sana Goyal writes for The Guardian, “As the reader journeys through this atmospheric and accomplished novel, they discover that the natural world around us is loud enough for those willing to listen, and Pariat has found the language for it.”

Must read: The Mountaineering Handbook by Sanjai Banerji


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