Calcutta is Amit Chaudhuri's examination of two years of his life in Calcutta, following a return to India after living in Britain for many years.
It covers vast swathes of the social and economic history of Calcutta, but always through the lens of Chaudhuri's family and friends. Much like the portrait of a city that emerges, the book is sprawling and occasionally unfocussed, but it's at its best when at its most personal – Chaudhuri is an engaging host who writes fluently about big themes with an accessible viewpoint. Hundreds of years of history, local politics and social attitudes, for example, are background to the fashion in doors and windows or the tea parties of an elderly friend. It's a rewarding glimpse into a deftly sketched, teeming world.