Another Country

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Author: Claire Messud
Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 784 words

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[(review date 6 September 2004) In the following review of The Zigzag Way, Messud expresses disappointment with the novel's thin characterization, citing the country of Mexico as its most fully realized subject.]

Anita Desai is justifiably renowned for her keen, subtle eye and her calmly elegant prose. She is also a mistress of synecdoche, a writer whose delicate portraits of the quotidian resonate outwards to convey tumultuous swathes of history. Although the characters in Clear Light of Day (1980) barely venture beyond their front gate, they live out the legacy of India's bitter battle for independence. Hers is a miniaturist's gift, precise, deft and powerful.

In The Zigzag Way, Desai turns her eye to a new continent. Set in Mexico, the novel weaves together the travels of a young American named Eric, an aged Austrian eccentric named Doña Vera, and a long-dead Cornish miner's wife, Betty Jennings. Through them, Desai sets out to depict the upheavals of 20th-century Mexico, primarily relating to the gold and silver mines in the Sierra Madre. We are introduced to the ongoing plight of the indigenous Huichols; to the difficult lives of the British miners, stranded far from home in the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100090477