Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Inheritance of Loss

It had been a while since I'd read anything by an Indian author and I happened to pick up The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. To say that I was disappointed would be putting it mildly.

I don't know how or why I managed to read the whole thing. It was a huge waste of my time. The book does not entertain, it does not grip the reader's attention, it does not have any life lessons for me to learn from it.

It's set amidst the Gorkha movement for an independent state for the Indian Nepalis (or Nepali Indians, whatever). I've read and liked stuff set amidst riots, like Lajja, and also, Mr and Mrs Iyer is still one of my all time favourite movies, but this one just did not speak to me. It has a narrative that keeps jumping back and forth between three or four different times and places in a way that just fails to grip the reader's attention or keep the pages turning. I mean, The God of Small Things also jumps about, but Arundhati Roy has her own way of keeping you glued to the book and making you want to read it again the instant you finish reading it. Kiran Desai doesn't. In various parts of the narrative, she's not sure whether she's addressing an Indian audience or an international one. Her characters are very difficult to relate to. She doesn't develop them well enough. It's hard to believe that a group of Indians living in a small town at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the 1980s, even those who have returned from foreign countries, would be eating tuna fish and bacon and pudding and scones all the time and would be celebrating Christmas properly, complete with the exchange of Christmas presents.

Then there are certain episodes in the story which do not add to the plot development and are just plain gross. Only a perverted mind would add such episodes to a novel when there was no apparent reason for them to be there. Disgusting.

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