Synopsis: Up in the Himalayas,in a derelict house,live three contrasting figures.The judge,left bitter and haunted by his past.His orphan granddaughter,enamoured of her tutor,despite the difference in their ideals.And the cook,whose heart belongs to his son,a struggling illegal immigrant in America.Down in Kalimpong,civil unrest is gaining momentum and threatens to pit the past against the present,nationalism against love,a small world against the troubles of a big world.
Why You Should Read The Inheritance of Loss:
1.The Beauty of the Language
Kiran Desai’s love of language is evident from the first page to the last.Her command of the English language is such that she is able to paint the lush Indian folklore and culture with the required warmth and vividness.Her narration is also extremely fluid and even dream-like.Also,it is down to her stunning vocabulary that her novel swings between wittiness and sheer pathos.In brief,there is not many novels around that can make one fall in love with language as much as The Inheritance of Loss does.
2.Post-modernist Writing at its Best
The Inheritance of Loss perpetuates the long standing tradition of Booker Winners being unique pieces of literature.Kiran Desai is not barred by syntactic rules or any such restrictions because the language she writes the book in is her own English.For instance,when the cook’s father is asked what food his son can make,he lists a variety of dishes without pausing – Desai doesn’t put any space or comma in-between these dishes.Similarly,we see a Matrioshka version of the word ‘PAWWW’ that conveys the confusion one character goes through as he makes his way on some street in America.On another time,the reader can see the word ‘up’ flying high in the book.In short,this book is very full of surprises and extremely entertaining to read.
Despite the humour and wittiness encompassing it,The Ineritance of Loss remains a powerful book written with sheer honesty.The inner struggles of the characters could not be conveyed any better.Indeed,being a master of English language,Kiran Desai has that capacity to place the exact words on the most abstract feelings.As a result,the book is not only immensely powerful,but greatly quotable as well.Desai also doesn’t flinch when it comes to describing delicate topics.Since she aims to give us a faithful rendition of the Indian folklore in Kalimpong,she cannot afford to spare taboo subjects.Thus,in the novel,we catch a glimpse of the way the inhabitants perceive Black people,White women and Buddhists,among many others.This is no candy-coated book.
There are 53 chapters in the book,but they are short and quickly read.Moreover the book goes back and forth between characters,such that,for instance,3 chapters might be on one character and the other 3,on another.Consequently we tend to devour 3 or 5 chapters a day,which means that 50 pages can very easily be digested.Also the fluid narration dangles between humour and poignancy in such a way that you might find it hard to put it down;having a strong vocabulary at her disposal,Desai can be amazingly witty,just as she can be brutally honest.
Why You Might Not Like The Inheritance of Loss:
The novel is strongly post-modernist,and Kiran Desai took great liberties whilst writing it.Though she masters the English language like few can,she doesn’t respect any particular rule in writing; rather she focuses on what her readers can feel through her words.Additionally switching between wittiness and seriousness can annoy quite a few readers.Her writing style is one of the main reasons why her book won the Booker Prize and other awards,yet it is also why it didn’t get rave reviews on goodreads.The Inheritance of Loss is a book you’ll either love or hate,depending on how well you let yourself go with her flow.
2.Not Character Driven
The story follows mainly the past and present lives of the judge,his niece,the cook,the cook’s son and,to some extent,the niece’s boyfriend.Consequently the book is not character-driven and lacks that peculiar intensity which only a character we’ve known for the whole story can bring;with so many characters occupying the centre stage,the intensity is somehow diluted.
Final Thought: To me,The Inheritance of Loss is a book filled with beautiful and unique illustrations painted with a wide range of words.The vocabulary is awe inspiring and many parts of the book are unforgettable because of either the wittiness or pathos with which they were written.For these reasons,I reckon that this is a book that aspiring writers should read.Sure,it may have some very slight flaws here and there,but it is undeniably one of the best books of the last decade.If I haven’t been convincing enough,read what Hermione Lee,chairman of the Booker Prize 2006,had to say about Desai’s masterpiece: ”A Magnificent novel of humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and political acuteness.” Her comment is exactly what the book is about.Highly recommended.