Monday, January 29, 2007

Review: The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

*possible spoilers

I did end up finishing this book, although in my previous post I complained that I didn't like it very much. It got interesting on page 179, long after when I would normally put a book down in disgust. I kept trudging, because I usually love the Man Booker winners so much, and I wondered if it was just my mood. Also, the writing was undeniably very good, causing me to turn down certain passages to save. But there were several things that I didn't like about the book, and that would cause me not to recommend it.

1. The characters were not very well drawn. You just don't get a sense of them. Eventually, as the book goes on, you get enough snippets here and there to put together why this person is acting this way and why that person is acting that way. But it's a long time coming. You don't get any sense at all of a characters inner world. Also, the book goes back and forth from India to New York and you are never sure when starting a chapter where you are or from whose viewpoint you are seeing the world.

2. The book is set around some sort of unrest between India and Nepal in the late 80's. The author writes the book as if everyone knows what that was all about. I had no idea what the background or issues were in this particular conflict, and I still don't!! There isn't any sort of explanation or development of the setting and activities surrounding the characters. I get some sense the Nepalis were mistreated and that is why Gyan, one of the characters, is tempted to join their side. But I don't really get any glimpses into what the background of that is, except to know that he was poor. If you know anything about this period of history, as Lotus Reads does, then I think you'd enjoy the book more.

3. It was, quite simply, boring. Nothing really happened. My emotions never got engaged. I didn't care. I think Kiran Desai is a wonderful writer and I feel bad saying my opinion of the book, but it is what it is. So to possibly atone, I'll leave you with a few quotes to show the beauty of her writing:

Biju stood there in that dusty tepid soft sari night. Sweet drabness of home -- he felt everything shifting and clicking into place around him, felt himself slowly shrink back to size, the enormous anxiety of being a foreigner ebbing -- that unbearable arrogance and shame of the immigrant. Nobody paid attention to him here, and if they said anything at all, their words were easy, unconcerned. He looked about and for the first time in God knows how long, his vision unblurred and he found that he could see clearly.

Biju hung on to the metal frame of the jeep as it maneuvered through ridged gullies and ruts and over rocks -- there were more holes in this road than there was road and everything from his liver to his blood was getting a good shake. He looked down over at oblivion, hurried his vision back to the gouged bank. Death was so close -- he had forgotten this in his eternal existence in America -- this constant proximity of one's nearest destination.

8 comments:

nessie said...

i hate that. either it seems there is no plot with great writing or vice versa. how frustrating. i feel like hooking up these two kinds of authors and saying GET TALKING

Lotus Reads said...

Lisa, I'm so sorry this wasn't a good read for you - wish we had thought to read the book together. I will starting "Shantaram" soon, I am so excited!

Framed said...

This was once on my TBR list and I deleted when I was trying to get the thing under control. You've helped me feel good about that. I enjoyed the review.

Lazy cow said...

I've been undecided about reading this, so I've just skimmed your review (so as not to read the spoilers). Maybe I'll pick it up one day, but there's no rush :-)

Literary Feline said...

Lisa ~ I really like how you broke down what you didn't like about the book. The premise intrigues me, and so I do hope to read it one day, but I will keep your opinion in mind when I do. I hate expecting something from a book and not having it meet those expectations.

Beckyb said...

Good, I feel better - man, I felt the same way about this one and I only have a chapter left - I was going to give up but we're discussing it on another book blog so I wanted to finish.

Diana said...

I felt the same way about this book. I struggled to finish but I ended up skimming the last third. I just didn't care about these people and, like, you, I didn't understand what the conflict was and could have used a bit more explanation.

Kimberly said...

I'm so glad I found your blog! I felt the same about this book. I wanted to like it, and I did like the writing style and descriptions, but the characters couldn't keep me engaged in their story. The only reason I finished the book was because I host a book club, and felt obliged to at least read the whole thing.