Monday, 9 June 2014

Book Review- The Inhertitance of Loss by Kiran Desai

All day, the colors had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths. Briefly, visible above the vapor, Kanchenjunga was a far peak whittled out of ice, gathering the last of the light, a plume of snow blown high by the storms at its summit.

The book, The inheritance of Loss, starts with these lines. The beauty of the description had me hooked immediately. I knew this story was not going to be a light one, but rather an educational journey where the writer throws across complex ideas and thoughts that is bound to provoke the reader’s mind. I was not disappointed.
Taken from Wikipedia-

The major theme running throughout is one closely related to colonialism and the effects of post-colonialism: the loss of identity and the way it travels through generations as a sense of loss. Individuals within the text show snobbery at those who embody the Indian way of life and vice versa, with characters displaying an anger at the English Indians who have lost their traditions.'

The main characters in the story are – Sai, Biju, Jemubhai Patel, and his cook.

He story revolves around Sai, a teenager who is living with her paternal grandfather Jemubhai Patel, former Justice. They live in the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas in an old manor named Cho Oyu. The house inspite of its great history is now in a crumbling state, the termites eating the place down. Sai was brought up in India in a convent. After the death of her parents she was sent to her grandfather. Here, it is the cook who really looks after the girl. Her grandfather isn’t very concerned. Because of lack of finance he is unable to send her to a good school. Hence, tutors are hired to teach her the basics. This is how she meets Gyan, her physics teacher. He isn’t much older to her and Sai and Gyan fall in love with each other.

Jemubhai Patel, her grandfather, doesn’t really step up to this role. He hates anything that connects him to his family. The judge was educated in England. Since the initiation of his studies, he had always wanted to cut his Indian roots and embrace the west. In spite of him trying, the British don’t accept him as one of their own nor do the Indians. Desai shows us the brutal side to the judge. We see him recalling incidents where he looks down upon his uneducated family, rapes his wife, beats her up, sends her back to her parents house, ignores his child. It seems that the only person the judge loves is his dog Mutt.
The Judge’s words after his dog goes missing-
“A man wasn't equal to an animal, not one particle of him. Human life was stinking corrupt, and meanwhile there were beautiful creatures who lived with delicacy on the earth without doing anyone harm. "We should be dying." the judge almost wept.”
Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss

Desai switches narration between Sai and Biju. Biju is the son of the judge’s cook who stays in America. The story takes place post-colonialism hence there are still much influence of the British on the Indians and their mind set towards anything foreign. Biju travels to US by illegal means and is staying in the place without legal documents. He works in different restaurants and meets varied people. Contrary to what his father thinks, Biju is not living a life of luxury. Desai uses satire to show many aspects of human behavior. Biju sees Indians coming to the restaurants he works and ordering beef. Cow is considered sacred to Hindus hence Biju is unable to hide his disgust for these Indians.

Gyan, Sai’s lover/tutor, is a Nepali. The Gorkhaland movement is used as a historic backdrop of the novel. The Gorkhaland movement involves the revolt of the Nepalies against the Indian government and against those who have embraced a western life. Gyan in search of an identity joins the Gorkhas and this leads to a break in relation between Sai and Gyan.
The inhertitance of loss is not a book that involves around one central theme. It deals with life and the different faces in one’s life. Dealing heavily on human perception and their decisions, Kiran Desia’s words have a way of finding their way to a certain part of the reader’s mind where one can chew over it. There is a conflict between the beautiful scenic setting the story is set in and the human wars. Many might find the story a bit of a drag and boring. However, the amazing thing about the book is that it captures true life in all its ugly and pretty shades.

“A journey once begun, has no end”
The book ends true to these words. There is no definite “happily ever after” end to this story. It ends on a note of hope.
The book has won many acclaims and awards. It won the Man Booker Prize for the year 2006, the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award in 2007 and many more.
Favourite parts-
The satire- this is done so well- not a bit more or a bit less.
The writing – Kiran Desai has beautiful writing that paints vivid pictures.
The humor – Though most of the humor is centered on sarcasm there is the right sprinkle of humor.

Another book that I read this week is Girls In Trucks by Katie Crouch. I picked the book from the shelf because I was drawn by the amazing book cover and I am all about supporting debut novels. The story was disappointing. Sarah, the protagonist is not very lovable. The writing is poor. To make it interesting the writer switches around with first person narrative, second person narrative and third person. It gets tiring.The book gets 6/10 from me. 


What book have you read lately?

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