As mentioned in an earlier post, I have been ‘reading’ (via a CDs-and-book combination) ‘the Inheritance of Loss’ – a book by Kiran Desai which won the Man Booker Prize in 2006. I had picked it up in my search for books reflecting issues of globalisation.
Set mainly in the foothills of the Himalayas, it tells the stories of several characters interwoven by family and work relationships, amid the legacies of post-colonial India, and the local struggles for political independence. Position, power and politics all play a part in this tale – with some predictable outcomes – and a perspective into cultures quite different from my own.
Since finishing (and enjoying) this book, I have searched to see how others had reviewed and found a mix of praise and criticism for the prize winner. Some reviews were quite effusive in their compliments, while others decried Desai as using too many stereotypes and betraying the culture of many Indian people groups.
Comments used in reviews include:
- a series of parallel stories… each quixotic
- ‘literature of tourism’ – a fascinating introduction to a particular time and place
- overwhelmed by detail
- gripping stories of people buffeted by the winds of history, personal and political
- the book gets under your skin
- a bleak view of the clash of the ‘first world’ with the ‘third world’
(Most of these comments from: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/95186.The_Inheritance_of_Loss)
It’s interesting to see the polarisation of reviews which often occurs with awarded books. These also made me wonder how the book might be received differently based on your ethnic background – would people who lived in, or knew the ethnic cultures, be accepting as I was of the way characters were portrayed and acted in the tale? Is that where the acceptance or rejection of the novel diverges greatly? Perhaps based on our own cultural baggage?
‘Reading’ using an audio production may have had an input to my enjoyment of the novel, read as it was by experienced narrator, Sam Dastor. This gave accents and voice to the characters which my personal reading-from-the-page may have missed. It certainly gave me things to laugh at in the car, as humour was interwoven with the daily struggles of Sai, Biju, Noni and Lola, and the Judge. And the language Desai uses is, at times playful, at other times precise, reflective and colourful. Perhaps that is why I also felt the need to purchase a physical copy of the book – and to see the shape of her words, and to see the names of the people and places in the tale.
I recommend picking up either copy (audio or book), or, as I did, try both! As usual comments and feedback welcome!