Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Inheritance 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 rest of the light, a plume of snow blowing high by the winds at its summit.” Thus begins Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. If you are not caught by these lines then the book is not for you.

Desai is the daughter of well known writer Bharati Desai and she has won a Man Booker Prize for this book. I believe this book is a cut above many of the books I have read recently. It is not a fast read at all and at times the story seems to go nowhere. But that is beside the point as the strength is in the language and Desai just excels in it. All that mist reminded me of another well written book called House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III but the comparison ends there. Without judgment Kiran Desai is able to portray everyday struggles in all zones of life. If you have tried to put an emotion into paper then you know how difficult it is, but Desai’s pen weaves effortlessly and beautifully through all kind of situations.

The story revolves around the remnants of the British Raj in India particulary in West Bengal and the struggles of Gorkhas of Kalimpong. Read here to get a background on Kalimpong’s history before delving into the book. The love story of Sai & Gyan gently traverses the book and gives it the semblance of a story too.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Haweswater by Sarah Hall

I was supposed to go out for a group lunch the other day. Something changed at the last moment and I found myself with a sanctioned long lunch hour at work. There was a Barnes & Nobles near work that I had always wanted to checkout and this presented the perfect opportunity. Armed with a location map and yahoo driving directions I found the place relatively easily. Much to my delight this location had a Starbucks cafĂ© which agreed perfectly with my lunch plans. I wanted a book so I could sit and read and eat. Ah! Isn’t that heaven? But I also didn’t want to spend much on book to satisfy a whim. This is when I noticed the $4.98 books on display from which I selected a book ‘Haweswater ‘ by Sarah Hall. To be honest what intrigued me about this book other than its price was the name of the author’s previous book included on the cover page. ‘The Electric Michelangelo’ Very intriguing, is it not? I thought an author who could come up with such a name surely has imagination. I ordered my latte – I wished my husband could join me since ordering a latte is our guilty pleasure – and a blueberry scone, found a quiet place by the window and settled down to read. The book was good, not disappointing as I had secretly feared and the whole lunch time and more passed in bliss before I could bring myself to spring up for getting back to work. Having said that, I have to say it is not an easy read. The story is told laboriously so as not to lose any details and might be boring to some. The author’s strength for an impatient reader like me was that I was willing to read through each of the words so as to be pulled more and more into the story she is trying to tell. I wanted to read the story without skimming it and was also quite happy to put it down for other errands knowing I will come back to it to finish it.

Sarah Hall is a British author and this is her second book. I intend to find her first book from the Library as I believe it will be good too and it was a Man Booker prize finalist. This book tells the story of the tenant farmers of Britain in the 1930s in the village of Marsdale and how the building of the Haweswater Dam affected their lives. Having grown up in a farm could explain why I took to this book.