Saturday 24 September 2011

The Obscure Logic Of The Heart by Priya Basil

The Obscure Logic of the Heart is about the clash between love and religion, religion and personal desires, personal desires and family obligations.  Muslim Lina meets Sikh Anil at university and the pair fall in love.  Her world is broadened through knowing him and he arranges work placements that lead to her starting a career as a human rights activist for the UN.   But their relationship must always remain a secret, and when Lina's parents discover the truth, she is constantly torn in a conflict with no right answer.  Should she choose for herself or her parents?   Tied up amongst all of this is the corruption of the Kenyan government and the effects of the illegal arms trade in Sudan.

Basil's book was a great read.  I rushed through it as I was so caught up in the story and the characters.  What I liked the most about it was that Basil didn't present any simple solutions or any great message of 'love will conquer all'.  By allowing us to see the thoughts of all the main characters, we could see that Lina and Anil's relationship was causing pain for all around them.  At one point the narrative got to a stage where there was no longer any decision that Lina could make that could fix everything, and that seemed realistic.  It was therefore an in-depth look at the issue and I found it affecting.  Even though I couldn't understand the attitude of Lina's parents, not being religious myself, I felt for them as their relationship with their daughter deteriorated.

I also enjoyed the selection of letters interspersed with the main story, about a relationship between a Muslim man and white British woman during the 1960s.  I was naturally curious as to how Basil would tie them to the main narrative and thought she did so in a touching way that made the actions of certain characters a lot more understandable.  The writing in these letters, and in the main story to a lesser extent, was lyrical.  Basil wrote the conflicts within Lina's family especially well, and the dialogue between Lina and her father at certain points was very powerful.

The backdrop of Lina's work with the UN in Sudan and the illegal arms trade from Kenya was interesting too.  At one point near the end of the story, Lina comes to realise that personal suffering can overwhelm concern for any global issue, and I think that is true.  This section of the story also concentrated on the role of our principles in our decisions.  If you love someone, can you still be with them if their family is involved in something morally repungnant?

I haven't any major criticisms to make of The Obscure Logic of the Heart.  It wasn't a happy book, but it wasn't exactly a sad book either.  I found it to be thoughtful and powerful, and a good take on the conflicts that can arise between religion, family and personal choice.

Verdict: A powerful examination on love between people of two different religions.
Source: Transworld Book Group Challenge
Published: 2010
Score: 4 out of 5


  1. You were fast at reading this novel,Sam!You must have liked it! It sounds an interesting and thought provoking novel. As for sadness and good literature, most of my favourite books are not joyful reading at all. So often good poetry/literature is connected to sad, melancholic feelings. I don't mind to be moved to tears when a book is well-written. Rather the opposite. Have a great Saturday night!

  2. Maria, you're absolutely right, I couldn't put it down! And I agree that melancholy makes some of the best literature. This one didn't move me to tears, but it certainly made me think.

  3. Oh! For a second, I thought the very-Indian sounding author meant that the book was based in India. But it seems interesting - will keep this in mind. Thanks for the review Sam!

  4. SOul Muser, it is an interesting read. If you like books set in India, have you tried Elle Newmark's The Sandalwood Tree?

  5. Hi!
    Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for stopping by my place. Have a great day!

    Just Books

  6. I read this recently too and I agree with your review :)

  7. Lindsay, I'm glad you enjoyed it too :)

  8. This sounds like a powerful read, I find it remarkable that a person's religion can be so defining a characteristic (not being religious myself) that they would exclude/be excluded by others. I know that this happens all over the world but it is still difficult for me to understand. I'm not sure that this is one for me, but it does sound interesting.