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Journey to Ithaca by Anita Desai

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Sophie and matteo are young and in love, and share a dissatisfaction with their bourgeois Italian upbringing. Naturally, like so many other young westerners in the sixties and seventies, they come to India. But the realities of life in an ashram ignite their differences; Sophie wants to be a tourist and go to goa and eat shrimp, which matteo scorns, seeking the ‘real’ India. Pragmatic Sophie is disillusioned by the hardships they encounter, while her husband, who yearnsfor spiritual fulfillment, sees only the purity of ascetic life, leading him to mother, a charismatic guru. Trying to reclaim an ailing matteo, sophie embarks on a new journey in search of a different truth; that of mother’s mysterious past. Soon, she finds that the immortal has a history of her own; born in Cairo, she was once laila, a dancer who toured the world before coming to Bombay to search for ‘divine love’. What each of the three people discover, on their individual quests, is at its heart, that ancient truth: That wisdom is found in the journey itself. A stirring exploration of emotional exile, of sacred and profane love, journey to Ithaca is amasterful novel.

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