04 January 2007

Recently Read: The Inheritance of Loss

After all that pre-Christmas crafting, I spent most of my Christmas break reading instead of being creative. This book was one that I had picked up on a trip to Annie Bloom's (my favorite bookstore) in November and just hadn't gotten to.

I was drawn to The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai because it is one of those clash-of-cultures novels that I enjoy. It is the story of a retired judge, a young girl, a cook, and a scholar in the foothills of the Himalayas and of the cook's son who is working in New York City. It is a story of loss and longing. The anglophile judge and his neighbors live in the faded glory of the remnants of English colonialism. The cook's abject poverty leaves him longing for a better life for his son in America. The scholar longs to better himself, to find his place, to fall in love, to fight for independence for his people group. The cook's son longs to find a place for himself in New York City. It's an engaging cast of characters.

The story is beautifully written--lush descriptions and anecdotes that drew me in to their world of faded glory and cultural upheaval. I wished several times that I had a pencil nearby to underline some of the sentences so I could find them again later. Of course, I was too lazy to get up and get a pen so now I can't quote any of the choice phrases here.

On the down side, I never warmed up to the main character. There was little to make her a sympathetic character. She was sort of just....there. And the overall theme and conclusion of the book was a downer--fates are inevitable, despite all one's striving nothing ever changes. I suppose if I had grown up on the Indian subcontinent it might be a reality that I would have come to accept, but I'm American so I instinctively rage against the fates.

I would recommend this book to those who have an interest in India/Nepal or the impact of colonialism. Otherwise, it might be one to skip in favor of a Zadie Smith book instead. But that's just my opinion.

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