The Inheritance of Loss
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.


Carl V. said...

Beautiful title, beautiful cover art, but just not something that sounds appealing to me for some reason. Maybe because it looks like too much work. That doesn't sound very literary of me, but most of the times I don't want to have to slog through a book.

Lisa said...

I am really really struggling to finish this. I can't make myself pick it up again. When I'm actually reading it I enjoy it, but it does not inspire me to return to it. Some recent discussion has made me curious about what happens with the Judge, but not so much as to keep reading.

I do think it's a beautiful book, and I even like the writing.

3M said...

Carl--I almost always finish books I don't like all the way to the end. I wouldn't have finished this one, though, if it wasnn't our April read for BookAwards.

Lisa--I really struggled, too. I felt exactly the same way. I'm glad I finished it, but it took me about 2 months! The last 1/3 goes by a lot faster if you're that far. I think it is about page 200 or so.

Framed said...

I have read similar comments about this book. It's always nice to find a book I simply don't "have to" read. There's so many that I do.

Stephanie said...

I had the same problem as you - just had such a hard time getting through it!

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