Review Excerpts

Time Out London – April 2006
“A brilliant novel… This is no saccharine tale of friendship across the social divide; Umrigar is far too clever for that. In fact the thing this book is probably best at is the nuances and complexity of relationships… Each time the author delves into the darker parts of her characters’ psyches, she touches our own. And she does what the best art can do; taps out universal truths via the portrayal of just a few people… Umrigar is a highly skilled storyteller and it is as much the novel’s plot as its depth of characterization that provides its irresistible momentum… A genuinely absorbing read [that] sucks you in from the very first page.
— Zoe Paxton

The Independent (UK) – March 3, 2006
“A Mumbai novel, a Mumbai Parsi novel, a post-nationalist slum poverty novel and, perhaps most compelling, a maid-and-mistress story… The varied elements of this tale of affection and class conflict are carried off with a winning ease and enthusiasm that make it both engrossing and moving. We experience, without being instructed, the dilemma of a small minority of privileged survivors so beset with the problems of cultural difference that their bones are literally disintegrating.”
— Aamer Hussein

Financial Times – February 17, 2006
“Thrity Umrigar has a striking talent for portraying pain and suffering and the sheer unfairness of life. She creates sympathetic portrayals of both women, particularly Bhima, who becomes the main protagonist of the story. The result is a vital social comment on contemporary India.”
— Claudia Webb

Pages Magazine – February 2006
“Marvelous… Umrigar’s prose is so powerful, so true, and so cleanly written that it offers one of those moments in which those of us who live by fiction live for: when writing throws back the veil between life and art. The reason that passionate readers are willing to wade through pages and pages of so-so novels is to find a novel like Umrigar’s – one that preaches nothing and yet teaches everything about compassion. The wonderful thing about such transcendent writing is that you don’t have to ‘live by fiction’ to appreciate it. Don’t miss The Space Between Us.”
–Elizabeth Hall

The Economist – January 28, 2006
“Thrity Umrigar has created two vivid female characters, each representative of thousands of real-life Indian women… [Their] tragic story is told against the vibrant backdrop of modern Mumbai… The book’s pages glow with descriptions of the city… The author prevents her story from descending into emotional soup by tackling, across the span of her characters’ lives, many of the issues affecting India today… This adds richness, making The Space Between Us far more than an analysis of fate and a portrait of the bonds of womanhood. It is also a powerful social commentary on the glorious and frustrating jigsaw puzzle that is modern India.”

The New York Times – January 22, 2006
“Powerful… In the classic upstairs-downstairs story, you always have a sneaking suspicion that downstairs, freed of corsets and etiquette, the servants are having a lot more fun than their prim, monocled masters. But no such palliative exists in the world of Thrity Umrigar’s second novel… Umrigar is a perceptive and often piercing writer… Her portrait of Sera as a woman unable to ‘transcend her middle-class skin’ feels bracingly honest.”
— Ligaya Mishan

Beacon Journal (OH) – January 15, 2006
“The Space Between Us is not meant to be read as a social commentary about race or class, although it certainly has some powerful messages along those lines. Rather, it is an elegant novel of the heart and spirit whose characters are testament to the essential human drive – to find joy, peace and love where we can… The book’s plot twists rival any best-selling page turner. But the inner workings of Umrigar’s characters are so sophisticated and complex, the story never descends into the tawdry. Her rich language and eye for the powerful detail, especially evident in her descriptions of everyday life in Bombay, are transporting.”
— Mary Ethridge – January 2006
“Subtle… strong and startling… Each description, murmur of dialogue and turn of phrase rings sharply. The lives of these women are rendered vividly, without bias, by a narrator who easily slips behind the curtain of her words… achieving a kind of omniscience that only the best writers can hope for… Readers will turn the last page reluctantly and remember the turns of Umrigar’s prose long after they have retired the book to their bookshelves, both for its expertly woven narrative by a writer with a masterful ear for dialogue and description and its meditation on attraction and friendship, no matter how seemingly insurmountable the differences are.”
— Jennifer Krieger

Washington Post – January 8, 2006
“Thrity Umrigar has created two wonderfully sympathetic characters who do much to make [India]’s complex nature comprehensible… This is a story intimately and compassionately told against the sensuous background of everyday life in Bombay… The life of the privileged is harshly measured against the life of the powerless, but empathy and compassion are evoked by both strong women, each of whom is forced to make a separate choice. Umrigar is a skilled storyteller, and her memorable characters will live on for a long time.”
— Frances Itani

Booklist (Starred Review) – January 03, 2006
“Umrigar renders a collection of compelling and complex characters, from kind, conflicted Sera to fiercely devoted Bhima (the latter is based on the novelist’s own childhood housekeeper). Sadness suffuses this eloquent tale, whose heart-stopping plot twists reveal the ferocity of fate. As Bhima sits at her dying daughter’s side, a fellow hospital visitor speaks the simple, brutal truth: ‘Here, we have all hit the jackpot for grief.’”
— Allison Block

San Francisco Chronicle – January 1, 2006
“Engrossing… remarkable… To read [The Space Between Us] is to become absorbed in the goings-on of two families whose habits may be startlingly like our own, despite their being halfway across the world… If “The Space Between Us” does invite comparisons to stories we’ve heard before… that doesn’t take away from the blunt realism and beauty of Umrigar’s book… As Umrigar relates the present and past events in the lives of Bhima and Sera, she… color[s] her scenes with such intense, convincing descriptions of Indian life. To read Umrigar’s novel is to catch a glimpse of a foreign culture.”
— Lynn Andriani

The Plain Dealer – January 1, 2006
“A quieter, more intimate slice of Bombay… layered with keen, feminine insight into class and family, betrayal, guilt and love… Umrigar understands the way love mixes with cruelty and loneliness. She is a connoisseur of guilt – and knows how to describe it. In counterpoint to this grimness is the pleasure of the book’s musicality, enhanced with a smattering of Hindi words and cadences… One of the joys of fiction is it can make visible what we readers recognize but have not seen. With The Space Between Us, Umrigar narrows the gap between those of us with the education and leisure to enjoy her book and the many, like Bhima, who have neither.”
— Karen R. Long

Armchair Interviews – December 2005
“This novel is sad, but more than that, it is beautiful, simple, and real… Although it is a split narrative, the text flows smoothly and is eminently readable. Umrigar effortlessly weaves the stories of the two women together, using the past to inform the present. Her characters are so well written that even when you are appalled by their actions, you can understand why they could–why they had to do what they did… In this novel Umrigar is showing us the true India of today, in all its glory and all its shame… Eye-opening.”
— Karen Morse

Publishers Weekly – December 5, 2005
“Umrigar’s schematic novel illustrates the intimacy, and the irreconcilable class divide, between two women in contemporary Bombay… In a final plot twist, class allegiance combined with gender inequality challenges personal connection, and Bhima may pay a bitter price for her loyalty to her employers.”

Kirkus Review – November 15, 2005
“Set in contemporary Bombay, Umrigar’s second novel is an affecting portrait of a woman and her maid, whose lives, despite class disparity, are equally heartbreaking… Though Bhima and Sera believe they are mutually devoted, soon decades of confidences are thrown up against the far older rules of the class game. A subtle, elegant analysis of class and power. Umrigar transcends the specifics of two Bombay women and creates a novel that quietly roars against tyranny.”