Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Inheritance of Loss - Alisia's Review

Here is the main excerpt of my review, of which it can be found in entirety here.

I have been going through a bit of a reading slump lately, which is why things have been quiet on the blog front. Unfortunately, this book is one of the reasons for that slump. It took me ages to finish reading.

The Inheritance of Loss is set mainly in 1980's India, in the state of West Bengal. With stunning imagery, Desai describes a group of people who, while dwelling in their own personal issues, get caught up in the political turmoil of the region. There is the retired judge, a grumpy man who only seems to have affection of his dog; Sai, the granddaughter who comes to live in the judge's crumbling home after she is killed; Gyan, her tutor and love; and Biju, the son of the cook who makes a go at living illegally in America.

Desai is a beautiful writer, her words jump off the page at you. Yet, somehow, everytime I put the book down, the story quickly became forgettable. After finishing the book, I still don't feel as if I know the characters all that well. I almost felt as if the characters themselves were acting out some part in a play, not their true selves. Their innate psyche remained hidden to me. I honestly can't think of another book I've read that evoked such strong polarities: beautifully written, yet utterly boring (although Saul Bellow's Herzog does come to mind). However, the book did spur some personal research about a part of India I thought I knew a little bit about, and realized I didn't. India is such a large and complex country, I am continually finding new aspects of it. I would love to go back and visit some day, as I have only been to the Tamil Nadu region. I also feel her commentary on post-colonialism was spot on.


Lisa said...

gosh. I couldn't agree with you more. I hated to pan the book, because her writing is just so amazing and beautiful. You almost don't want to say anything bad about her, so fine is her skill. And yet, I too had absolutely no connection to the characters. If I would have put the book down and forgotten it, it really wouldn't have bothered me at all....very unusual for me to love the writing and be totally bored with the plot and characters.

Wendy said...

I can understand what you both are saying... although I liked the book better than you did. I actually liked the book and appreciated it better AFTER I finished it and had time to absorb some of the story and what I think Desai was trying to show the reader. I'm discussing this in a book group, and will be starting discussion in a second book group, and the questions are making me think more deeply about the book. Her writing is absolutely gorgeous...I'd like to read her first book and see how I feel about it.