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Publishes 25/06/24

Susan's Review

Perhaps the central question of Neel Mukherjee’s extraordinary new novel is: how should we live? What moral and ethical choices should we make in a world ravaged by poverty and climate change, and where money is the measure of all things? The novel provides no answers to the dilemmas confronting our contemporary world. Instead, Choice is a maze of ambiguities and contradictions in which the actions of a morally worthy character create destructive consequences, and his neo-liberal economist partner turns out to be far more humane.

The opening scene is symptomatic of the novel’s treatment of the burden of choice. The main character Ayush, an editor in a publishing company, shows his young sons a video about the sickening reality of pig farming, the details of which are not, as they say, for the fainthearted. Fuelled by a justifiable anger about cruelty to animals, Ayush chooses to make an important ethical point at the expense of his children’s feelings.

Choice is structured as a triptych. The first section details the conflict between Ayusha and his economist partner Luke. The second and third sections are based on two short stories published by Ayusha: the off-loading of white guilt onto migrants, and the disintegration of an Indian family after their failure to make money from the gift of a cow. In each case, deeply troubling experiences are presented not as ethical abstractions but as part of the daily lives of vividly realised characters. In each case, the novel resists the facile stereotyping which perceives literature as humanising and economics as an instrument of an inhumane capitalist system. It’s a complicated, beautifully written and important book.

Publisher's Reviews

From Booker-shortlisted author Neel Mukherjee, a devastating new novel that exposes the myths of individual choice. How have we come to live this way? At what cost? Who pays the price?