Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The Inheritance of Loss
by
Kiran Desai

2005, 318 pp.

Winner: Booker Prize, NBCC

Rating: 3.5




While this book has garnered much critical acclaim, I found it very difficult to complete. It took me over two months to get through it. Once I put it down, I just wasn't compelled to pick it up again. It sort of felt like a school assignment. Luckily, the last 1/3 of the book went by much faster than the first 2/3. Before reading, I would highly recommend doing a little research if you are ignorant (like I was) of Indian culture or history. One link that shed a little light on the subject for me was here.

There are two settings for the book--America and Kalimpong. Sai lives with her grandfather, a former judge, at the foothills of the Himalayas. She falls in love with Gyan, her tutor, who is sympathetic to the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF). The clash of ideals between the Indians who want change and those who wish to retain aspects of British colonialism is one of the two main conflicts in the novel.

The other conflict is that of the Indians who emigrate to the United States and the conditions of their lives once they live there. Biju, who is the son of the Judge's cook, is one of the lucky few who get a visa to go to America. But once he is there, is he really better off? The novel asks the question -- how much does each person care about their individual culture, nationality, and family. What does our "inheritance" mean to us?

While I appreciate these themes and do think the writing was brilliant at times, I wouldn't recommend this book for most readers.

1 comment:

Arukiyomi said...

I'm kind of sorry you didn't enjoy this more. I absolutely love India and haven't read a book set there that I wouldn't recommend.

Two books that you might enjoy because the writing styles are very well developed are The God of Small Things and, more in line with Inheritance, is Paul Scott's forgotten novel Staying On which I reviewed HERE.

Despite your review, you haven't put me off. If I see this around, I'll still give it a try ;-)