Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Quick Trip to India

My local library recently featured a display of Indian literature, that is, novels by Indians and about India. I often enjoy these, so I scooped up three that were new to me. It proved to be a mixed bag, and I didn’t finish any of them.

Bombay Time by Thrity Umrigar was the best of the bunch. It’s set in an apartment building in Bombay, and provides literary snapshots of many of the residents of this apartment as they gather to celebrate the wedding of one of the younger generation. More in the vein of connected short stories rather than a novel, I found the shifting focus interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying. I read about half the chapters and felt like I was done. I did enjoy learning about the Parsis, a community of which most of the book’s characters are members. This group is a minority religion in India, and I knew very little about them.

Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal held my interest for a while. Unlike the other two, this one is set in Britain among the Indian immigrant community, and tells the story of three women who have been friends since childhood. The narration shifts among the three characters, and at times it felt like the author couldn’t decide if she was writing chick lit or serious fiction. It was good at first, but then I got bored.

I only read a few chapters of A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi. I didn’t like this one at all. I thought it sounded good, because the blurb said it was about the Union Carbide accident in Bhopal in the 1980’s. But it wasn’t really about that at all (except very peripherally) and instead was some kind of lost love story where there were lots of BIG SECRETS and MYSTERIOUS STRANGERS. Maybe it was a Young Adult novel; sometimes those are a bit too obvious for my taste.

So, kind of a disappointing trip. But I will try again.


Anonymous said...

Try "The Hungry Tide" by Amitav Ghosh. It's a fabulous novel about the Sundarbans, tigers, dolphins, the past, the present, science and superstition and, of course, love: eros, agape, and all the iterations thereof. I very much enjoyed it when I read and reviewed it a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine gave me 'IF GOD WAS A BANKER' by Ravi Subramanian from her little library. She told me that this book is among the 16 best books that are shortlisted for the golden quill award.

Becky Holmes said...

Susan and Ankita, thank you for these recommendations. I've put them on my list.

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