Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Inheritance of Loss

Before I go into more detail, I will first summarize this book in two words: Eloquent and Depressing. With an emphasis on depressing.

Okay, now for my more detailed thoughts on this book, of which I have many. So get ready.

It wasn't exactly a page turner, in fact there were definitely times when I felt like I was slogging through it. I talked to someone at work today who said they tried and just couldn't quite finish it and she knew of someone else who had the same problem. I think part of this is because there are so many references to the seemingly trillions of regions and countries, former countries, and former regions in the surrounding areas. And it seemed like each region had like 3 different names for its people and then like 3 new names based on their religion and it all just got very confusing and served to highlight my complete ignorance of that area of the world.

Also, without spoiling it, I'll just say that I did not like the ending. I hate it when the ending of a book sucks! It's such a disappointment.

All of that said, the virtues of the book aren't really in the characters or even the plot specifics. The beauty of the book is in its prose and the way it tells the story of India (and Indians). It almost seemed like the author viewed the characters not as individuals with their own stories to tell, but rather as tools to tell the bigger story of India, colonialism, and really, the rest of the world. The characters felt more representative than specific.

I thought the language was really beautiful. So much so that I actually had to borrow Jeff's nerdy highlighter and use it a few times. There were a few passages that were so eloquent that I wanted to go back and reread them. Here is just part of a paragraph where a main character witnesses a riot in the 1980's:
"How can the ordinary be changed? Were these men entirely committed to the importance of the procession or was there a disconnected quality to what they did? Were they taking their cues from old protest stories or from the hope of telling a new story? Did their hearts rise and fall to something true? Once they shouted, marched, was the feeling authentic? Did they see themselves from a perspective beyond this moment, these unleashed Bruce Lee fans in their American T-shirts made-in-China-coming-in-via-Kathmandu?"

And another about a young Indian guy named Biju trying to make it in New York (and failing):
"Biju walked back to the Ghandi Cafe, thinking he was emptying out. Year by year, his life wasn't amounting to anything at all: in a space that should have included family, friends, he was the only one displacing the air. And yet, another part of him had expanded: his self-consciousness, his self-pity -- oh the tediousness of it. Clumsy in America, a giant-sized midget, a bigfat-sized helping of small... Shouldn't he return to a life where he might slice his own importance, to where he might relinquish this overrated control over his own destiny and perhaps be subtracted from its determination altogether? He might even experience that greatest luxury of not noticing himself at all."

So there you have it. I hated it and I loved it.

I started The Pillars of the Earth tonight right after finishing The Inheritance of Loss. I leave for Alaska tomorrow night so I probably won't be posting until Wednesday of next week, at which time I will hopefully have a "review" ready for The Pillars of the Earth.

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