River of Fire

Written by Qurratulain Hyder
Review by India Edghill

Originally published in 1959 as Aag ka Darya; English edition “transcreated from the original Urdu by the author.”

A sweeping saga that covers over two thousand years, River of Fire weaves the lives and fates of several recurring characters into a glorious tapestry of India’s history. As you can imagine, this makes the book difficult, if not impossible, to summarize in any way that will make much sense. Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians; Indians and Britons; men and women – all dance across the stage of history in a glorious pageant of love and war, creation and destruction and renewal. Although it may sound chaotic, somehow the text winds seamlessly from the wanderings of a Buddhist monk (circa 300 BC) through the empire of the Great Moguls and then that of the English Raj, down to Partition and its aftermath.

Brilliant and thought-provoking, my only caveat on River of Fire is that readers not familiar with India’s history may find some of the leaps of time hard to follow. But don’t let that stop you; this book is fascinating!