Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

I just can’t seem to get enthused about this book. I didn’t dislike it. But I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. That’s the trouble with literary awards like the Man Booker Prize. They just raise your expectations.

This is a big book. It’s got issues like revolution, immigration, loneliness, colonialism, poverty, class, and identity. But it’s a small book too, focusing for long passages on a teenager named Sai and the boy she has a crush on. It works, even though it sounds like it might not.

Set in the area around Kalimpong, India, with the mountain Kanchenjunga as a backdrop, the book takes place in the 1980’s during a time of political instability in the region. Sai lives with her grandfather in an isolated villa, surrounded by a cast of oddball characters with names like Uncle Potty. There’s also a parallel story of Biju, the cook’s son, living as an illegal alien in New York. Biju’s anonymous despair is probably the saddest part of the book, and made me consider carefully the young Indian man who waited on us at a coffee shop over the weekend. Desai mixes the comic and tragic with an expert’s touch. Her writing is very deft; this book is a pleasure to read, even if you don’t love the story (which I guess I didn’t).

The New York Times does a much better job of talking about this book than I am doing (duh). Here is a link to their 2006 review.

(Book 55, 2007)


Anonymous said...

I read this for my book group earlier this year. Like you, I didn't dislike it but for some reason I didn't love it either even though the writing was very good. I'm currently reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and I just can't put it down - that's what I want from a book! Happy new year, by the way.

heather (errantdreams) said...

Sounds interesting. Have you considered Tan Twan Eng's "The Gift of Rain"? It's a WWII-era novel set in Malaysia, and I found the story and characters quite gripping.

Becky Holmes said...

Nicola, Happy New Year to you too. I had a lot of trouble getting into Jonathan Strange. I think I didn't give it enough of a chance. Glad you like it though.

Becky Holmes said...

Heather, I don't know this book but it sounds like just my thing. I am going to request it from the library right now. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Strange is fantastic, but you have to get through the first 70 or so pages before the magic really begins. Try it again, Becky!

1morechapter said...

I didn't care at all for Inheritance of Loss, either.

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