Lanterns on Their Horns – Radhika Jha

Lanterns On Their Horns is a gentle story about life in rural India. Ramu and Laxmi live in a village which has turned it’s back on modern society, but the couple are ostracised from village life because of the shame of Laxmi’s father’s suicide. They struggle to get by until one day their lives are changed by the discovery of a stray cow in the forest.

Manoj and Pratima live a very different life. Manoj works on a new project to artificially inseminate Indian cattle with European sperm, with the aim of increasing milk yield. Rural farmers do not understand the concept of cows becoming pregnant without a bull being present, and so are deeply mistrusting of him. The book highlights the conflict between modernisation and traditional rural life.

Lanterns On Their Horns isn’t like your typical Western novel, it has a distinctive Indian feel and some unique attributes. Whole sections are written from the perspective of a cow. It sounds really weird, but it actually works:

Being alone was new. From the time she was born, creatures similar to her had surrounded her. Now a nameless dread loosened her bowels. It was of a place to which cows went alone. It made her want to run, but she didn’t know where.

I loved being inside a cow’s mind and as with the amazing mouse scene in The End of Mr. Y I now have a renewed empathy for these animals. The pace of the book is quite slow, but I loved learning about Indian culture and traditions so much that I didn’t mind. This book gets deep into Indian life without the depressing violence of A Fine Balance, but it feels much more realistic than Q and A . I think it is a great average of the two.

If you like to be immersed in different cultures or have always wanted to know more about cows then this book is for you.



Lanterns on Their Horns was released in the UK today. It isn’t available in the US at the moment, but you can buy it with free international delivery from The Book Depository.

About the author

Radhika Jha is a best selling author in India. Her debut novel Smell, won the French Prix Guerlain and has been translated into sixteen different languages. This is her second novel.

What is your favourite book with an Indian setting?

Have you read any great books which allow you to get inside the mind of an animal?

16 replies on “Lanterns on Their Horns – Radhika Jha”

I haven’t read A Suitable Boy yet. I have a copy here, but the length is putting me off. I’ll get round to it one day.

Haha! Well, having grown up on a farm, and even raised and shown some bovines for the county fair, I can attest that cows are not the smartest animal that God made. It would be a hoot to try to imagine what was going on in their minds. I’m still chuckling. I’ve got to hand it to you…you read the most amazing books!

I didn’t realise you knew so much about cows! Don’t worry – the cows in this book aren’t portrayed as being very clever! I found them to be very realistic, but I’m not an expert!

I love the cover too! I think it is a good reflection of the contents and I hope you enjoy iy if you do decide to get a copy.

Duncton Wood was one of my favourite books as a teenager. I think my love of animals stems from there.

I haven’t read anything with an animal point of view besides Animal Farm and that was such a long time ago.

I think I tend to draw a blank on things when people ask me a question. I feel like I have read quite a few books set in India, but now the only thing that comes to mind is God of Small Things, but that’s okay because I do believe that it is the best book I have read about India anyway.

I haven’t read God of Small Things either. It is quite high in my TBR pile though. I’m looking forward to it.

This book sounds absolutely wonderful. Inspite of being an Indian, I’ve never heard Radhika Jha, how sad is that on my part?

Love the cover and thr Krishna and the cow symbolism. Thanks for the review.

Do you pay much attention to the Indian book market? Your reading tastes seem to mirror mine, but I’d love to see a few more Indian books on your blog.

hmmm…thats a good point, I dont really pay much attention to the Indian market. But I do surf the Indian writers section in every bookstore. ButI don’t notice an Indian book unless its a bestseller. I read books to escape to a new and different place, to travel. And Indian books don’t provide me that. There is no fun in reading what you already know and see everyday.

That said I’m trying to add more Indian writing to my reading but I abaondoned atleast 5 books based in India this year. What can I say? Its not that I’m not trying 🙂 May be I dont find the right ones.

Interesting – that sounds like the very reason I love Indian books so much. Books based in the UK, especially modern ones, have to be so much better than average for me to like them, so I understand exactly what you mean. Let mek now if you do find any great Indian books though!

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