Chitrita Banerji’s first novel, Mirror City, is set in Bangladesh in the years immediately after the country’s independence. Uma, a Hindu Bengali from Calcutta, marries Iqbal a Muslim from Bangladesh after they meet as students in America. They move to Iqbal’s homeland in late 1973, only to discover that the new-made country is collapsing under the weight of impending famine, acute unemployment, and political corruption.
As Uma tries to make a life in the new city, she faces upheavals of her own. Iqbal is a changed man, their mixed marriage raises too many eyebrows and the charged atmosphere in Dhaka makes it impossible to trust anyone. She has never felt so utterly alone in her life, until she finds herself unexpectedly falling in love.
Mirror City follows Uma through a journey of self-discovery that is often traumatic, sometimes ecstatic, and ultimately liberating.
Chitrita Banerji has been a writer of cookbooks, in which she conjures fragments of her childhood in Kolkata, leaving the reader open-mouthed, waiting for the next morsel. This time, Banerji has forsaken the table for the bed. She has moved to Dacca, or Dhaka, with her protagonist Uma, who, abandoning all the certitudes of former Indian identity and self, follows her newly-minted Bangladeshi husband Iqbal to the city. It’s a rocky bed that they make for themselves. Part of it is due to Uma having to renegotiate the Bengali-Hindu side of her persona to Iqbal’s Muslim affiliations when they arrive in a recently-liberated country still reeling from the scars of the bloody carnage of war. Read more...
— The Financial Express, Mumbai
Banerji’s handling of the ending is a master act and reminded me that nothing is as it appears and no human being is entirely black or white…. Banerji writes very well, her English simple, but beautiful, just like the sarees Uma wears in this novel.… Mirror City has a touch of truth which only adds to the fantastic fiction woven by Banerji.
— Vinod Joseph, Winnowed (blog)
Banerji’s first novel…is as passionate and honest as its heroine. Its portrait of a decaying marriage is remarkably true to life.
— The Telegraph, Calcutta
This is far from a politically strident book; it is a love story in the shadow of political intrigue. The characters are fleshed out well, without the baggage of irritatingly superfluous back stories in some novels that weigh you down.
— Femina, India
Mirror City is a perfect commentary on the times that Dhaka went through.… It is a brilliantly written book, in a language that is both descriptive and powerful. It has the hand mark of a novelist who knows the mind of a reader and who can take the reader into the minds of the characters.
— The Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Among the several permutations and combinations tried by Indian novelists in English to record Hindu-Muslim marriages, Mirror City scores by its controlled intellectuality, avoiding emotional embarrassments for the two communities. The ingredients of contemporary fiction are used judiciously.
— The Deccan Herald, Bangalore