The Tiniest House of Time is more than a family saga, ranging across continents and decades seamlessly, from colonial Burma in the 1930s to nationalist Malaysia in the 1990s and beyond, to Hong Kong and Australia. In a wonderfully engaging and intimate story-telling style redolent of Amitav Ghosh's, the reader is thrust into the lives of far-flung middle-class Indian communities: immersed in family and local politics and intimate relationships, swept along in the tide of grand historical events.
The novel is a rare window into a world of untold histories of the voiceless Indian diaspora in places and times where the enemy might be different, but the trauma, prejudice and hatred remain the same. History works in cycles, repeating itself, until we finally understand that everything that has happened, has always already happened.
The story is driven by Iyer's two main characters, both strong women--Susheela Sastri and Sandhya Sastri--who are grandmother and granddaughter, but could have been born of the same atom. Sandhya visits her grandmother's deathbed after having run away from her country, her family, her love, and herself. She remembers her grandmother's stories, of a lost time in Burma, and digs deep to find truth in it. A dying Susheela, impatient with her family's pity, asks Sandhya to read to her. It opens up past events in both their lives, the family dynamics, the forbidden loves, the politics of who can be hated, when, and by whom... And what can they, as women of their times, actually do about it.