Laila, orphaned daughter of a distinguished Muslim family, is brought up in her grandfather's house by orthodox aunts who keep purdah. At fifteen she moves to the home of a 'liberal' but autocratic uncle in Lucknow. Here, during the 1930s, as the struggle for Indian independence intensifies, Laila is surrounded by relatives and university friends caught up in politics. But Laila is unable to commit herself to any cause: her own fight for independence is a struggle against the claustrophobia of traditional life, from which she can only break away when she falls in love with a man whom her family has not chosen for her. With its beautiful evocation of India, its political insight and unsentimental understanding of the human heart, Sunlight on a Broken Column, first published in 1961, is a classic of Muslim life.