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Sunlight on a Broken Column

Attia Hosain

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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

2021 is the sixtieth anniversary of Sunlight on a Broken Column, a monumental, hugely influential novel, written against the backdrop of Indian Partition.

Sunlight on a Broken Column, first published in 1961, is an unforgettable autobiographical novel, set against the background of Indian Partition.

'The deftness with which Attia Hosain handles the interplay of manners, class, culture and different forms of female power is gorgeously done . . . Laila is such a remarkable heroine - sharp, spirited and passionate' - KAMILA SHAMSIE

'My life changed. It had been restricted by invisible barriers almost as effectively as the physically restricted lives of my aunts in the zenana. A window had opened here, a door there, a curtain had been drawn aside; but outside lay a world narrowed by one's field of vision'

Laila, orphaned daughter of a distinguished Muslim family, is brought up in her grandfather's traditional household by her aunts, who keep purdah. At fifteen she moves to the home of a 'liberal' but autocratic uncle in Lucknow. Here, during the 1930s, as the struggle for Indian independence sharpens, Laila is surrounded by relatives and university friends caught up in politics.

Laila is unable to commit herself to any cause: her own fight for independence is a struggle against the claustrophobia of traditional life, from which she can only break away when she falls in love with a man whom her family has not chosen for her. With its stunning evocation of India, its political insight and unsentimental understanding of the human heart, Sunlight on a Broken Column is a classic of Muslim life.

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