Spirituality and sensuousness, the divine and the carnal, decay and regeneration – these are the ‘themes’ of Divine Music. Set in contemporary India, this is the story of Sarika, a young Indian music prodigy. Through the unique lens of the music world, the story examines the relationships of guru and pupil, parent and child, husband and wife and, finally, the artist within her world.
REVIEWED IN ‘Publishers Weekly’ 11/16/09
Mohan’s impressive debut explores the connections between spiritual and physical passion in a shifting Indian society, through the lives of two musically gifted young Indian women. Sarika and Swati follow their artistic muses to the local conservatory, where each succumbs to the passions of older men attracted by their talent. Swati, from a poor village, is ruined when her wealthy businessman admirer impregnates and then abandons her. Sarika, the daughter of a well-placed government official, receives private after-class instruction from Kirana, a renowned voice teacher, but falls prey to his seductive lessons on the sensuality of music, and ends up in the same predicament as classmate Swati. The contrasting fates of these similarly afflicted young women leads to a rich multi-generational portrait of a changing cultural and political landscape riddled with new opportunity as well as age-old opportunism.
REVIEWED IN ‘BookList ONLINE’– Joanne Wilkinson
This debut novel by a former journalist homes in on the repressive side of 1970s Indian culture. Sarika is a gifted music student attending a renowned music college in Lucknow in North India. Her revered teacher, Kirana, possesses a singular voice, rich in emotion, and he recognizes in Sarika a talent much greater than his own. As he teaches her the phrasing and pitch necessary to sing Hindustani classical music, the two begin to bond emotionally through their mutual love of singing. And when the married Kirana begins to visit her at home for private lessons, the two begin an intense love affair, one that opens Sarika’s eyes to the hypocrisy of her own culture. The limited options for women are underlined through two subplots, one involving a poor Indian music student whose reputation is ruined after being unwittingly seduced by a callous businessman, the other involving Sarika’s cousin, who is prevented from marrying the boy she loves by her status-conscious parents and is instead pressured into entering an arranged marriage. Despite its hazy chronological structure, which can be a distraction, this accessible, engrossing first novel offers an unusual blend of social commentary, coming-of-age themes, and a love for sacred Indian music.