One of the authors who lauds it calls it lyrical; I would say that it merely waxes lyrical. Incorrect. It wanes lyrical. There is a determination, almost a ventriloquism, in the writing. Take this sentence: “To him, the value of gemstones – the consistency of imperial jade, the malleability of gold, the hardness of diamonds, and the vibrant pigeon blood of rubies – lies in metaphor.” That is one of many lists the reader must trudge through. Time and again, the novel overwrites itself. Whoever thought that their blouse was “embroidered with sweat”? Or about a supposedly significant list of “bees, insects, flies, flowers, dirt, bark, wasps, shells”?
Shubhangi Swarup’s debut novel considers the many ways human beings are connected with each other and the world around us. A sometimes riveting, sometimes long-winded journey through physical and metaphysical landscapes, the book is comprised of loosely interconnected stories about people from India and neighbouring countries. Latitudes of Longing is beautifully written in lush, lyrical prose. Even the author’s acknowledgements show her lyricism: “The muse of this novel is our unassuming planet, a being that bears more beauty, magic, and resilience than this human mind can fathom.” It is a muse that leads the author down many paths. You could spend the whole review trying to summarise the plot, which is broken down into four sections: Islands, Faultline, Valley, Snow Desert.