The Best Of Anita Desai is a compilation of three of Desai's best works: Clear Light Of Day, Baumgartner's Bombay, and In Custody.
Clear Light Of Day, published in 1980, is set in Old Delhi. It begins with Tara, who welcomed to her childhood home in Delhi by her older sister Bimla (Bim). The tensions between the sisters are very palpable with Tara moving to US after marrying a foreign diplomat and Bim, a celibate, looking after their autistic brother Baba. The conversation between the sisters eventually leads to their brother, Raja. Bim, harboring an old insult, refuses to attend Raja's daughter's wedding. The story then revolves around how each of the siblings understands the other's shortcomings and come to realize the importance of family.
Baumgartner's Bombay describes the life of a Jew by name Hugo Baumgartner, who is forced to seek shelter in Calcutta after the Holocaust in Germany. On his arrival he is mistaken for a Nazi and spends the next 6 years in prison. Upon his release he meets with an acquaintance, Mr. Habibullah. But since Mr. Habibullah is fleeing the Hindu-Muslim clashes he refers Baumgartner to a friend in Bombay. The remaining story describes the friendship between Baumgartner and his employer Mr. Chimanlal.
In Custody revolves around the life of the improvised college lecturer Deven. Being a lover of Urdu poetry he jumps at the opportunity to interview the great Urdu poet, Nur. The remaining of the story is devoted to describing the trials of Deven to finish this dream interview.
The first edition of The Best Of Anita Desai was published by Penguin Books Ltd in 2008 and is available in paperback.
All the three stories revolves around the lives of simple people through whose eyes Desai captures the various human emotions and nature.