Fathered by an Englishman, Pran Nath Razdan, the boy who will become the Impressionist, was passed off by his Indian mother as the child of her husband, a wealthy man of high caste. At fifteen the news of Pran's true parentage is revealed to his father and he is tossed out into the street. Thus begins an extraordinary journey of a young man who must often reinvent himself to survive.
Imprisoned in a brothel and dressed in women's clothes, his sensuous beauty is exploited as he is made to become Rukhsana. To a depraved British major he becomes Clive, an object of desire taught to be a model English schoolboy. Escaping to Bombay he begins a double life as Robert, dutiful foster child to a Scottish missionary couple, and as Pretty Bobby, errand boy and sometime pimp to the tawdry women of the city's most notorious district.
But as political unrest begins to stir, Pran finds himself in the company of an orphan named Jonathan Bridgeman. Having learned quickly that perception is a ready replacement for reality, Pran soon finds himself on a boat bound for Southampton where, with Bridgeman's passport, he will begin again. First in London, then at Oxford, the Impressionist hones his chameleon -- like skills, making himself whoever and whatever he needs to be to obtain what he desires.
The Impressionist is maniacally inventive--a fantastical funhouse of a novel.