When a novel like A Thousand Perfect Things comes along, it behooves readers to stop and take notice. Kay Kenyon’s self-described first foray into fantasy isn’t simply an alternate-world take on Anglo-Indian relations, it’s a literary triumph that stands upon a dozen universal themes to reach its obscenely successful heights.
At the heart of this book is the theme of duality, explored in the dichotomies of magic and science, white and brown, good and evil. The novel’s central protagonist, Astoria Harding is the apprentice to the age’s most accomplished botanist—who also happens to be her grandfather. When he dies of an unexpected sickness, Astoria and her family leave their homeland country of Anglica and take up residence in the spiritual and untamed country of Bharata.
Bharata seethes under the yolk of Anglican oppression, and despises the marvel that is the Bridge that connects the two countries. Astoria seeks the legendary golden lotus in hopes of joining the ranks of famed scientist but her journey leads her into the arms of mutiny—both internal and external.
Kenyon is victorious in establishing a world that, while somewhat familiar to our own, is different enough that we readers remain entranced. Astoria’s exploration of many challenging questions—who am I? What am I meant to be? Can I change my fate?—leads to as many challenging answers.
This is a novel that celebrates the many; and not the few. It venerates the notion that there are many paths through life and that anyone seeking only one is doomed to fail.
It is my recommendation to anyone seeking quality, fascinating, and transformative literature that this book land at the very top of your list. A Thousand Perfect Things is a novel whose ending is one of sweet sorrow—we are saddened to part, but glad for the dalliance.