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First Light
Author: Sunil Gangopadhyay

Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 9780141004303
Pages: 753
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The sequel to the award-winning and critically-acclaimed Those Days, First Light is a magnificent novel set at the turn of the twentieth century in a Bengal where the old and young India are jostling for space. Prominent among its many characters are Rabindranath Tagore or Robi, the young, dreamy poet, torn between his art and the love for his beautiful, ethereal sister-in-law, Kadambari Devi, and the handsome, dynamic Naren Datta, later to become Swami Vivekananda, who abandons his Brahmo Samaj leanings and surrenders himself completely to his Guru, Sri Ramakrishna. The story also touches upon the lives of the men and women rising to the call of nationalism; the doctors and scientists determined to pull their land out of the morass of superstition and blind beliefs, and the growing theatre movement of Bengal, with its brilliant actors and actresses who leave behind the squalor of their lives every night to deliver lines breathtaking in their beauty.

Through all this runs the story of Bharat and Bhumisuta - one an illegitimate prince, the other a slave who rises to become the finest actress of her age - who cling to their self-respect and love in a society which has little time for people like them. Grand in its scale and crackling with the energy of its prose, First Light is a rich and comprehensive portrait of Bengal, from its sleepy, slow-changing villages to the bustling city of Calcutta where the genteel and the grotesque live together. Equally, it is a chronicle of a whole nation waking up to a new, modern sensibility.