The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai: A Book Review

desaiI am very interested in reading books on India since I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. This novel gave me an idea about life of Indians (although I already studied it in our high school History. ) I became more interested when I read A White Tiger by Aravind Adiga from which I learned the real face of social system in India, that people in the lower class get through miserable and sordid life. This fact opened my mind then. Probably, the novel that has had a significant impact upon me so far is Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, a wonderful book I will definitely recommend to someone asking for what book they should read. Thereby, I always look for the other novels which have something to do with India since there are some included on 1001 Best Novels of All Time.

All the  above-mentioned books have complete resemblance – their themes are all about poverty. So when I saw this novel in a book store, I grabbed it because I have now the conception that Indian novels have something to do with India . On the other hand, Kiran Desai’ s has the same hallmark but not as heart-breaking and compelling as Rohinton Mistry’s . The way she wrote it is completely different from the other contemporary writers’ .

This novel won the Man Booker Prize in 2006 and National Circle Award in the same year. As a reader, do not underestimate why this is deserving of the said awards. In fact , the novel is not much of a good read beyond my taste ; however, objectively speaking, I agree with another famous Indian writer, Salman Rusdie, that Keran Desia is a terrific writer.

First: Desai’s writing style reminds me of Black-American writers’ novels; for example, the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. When you read the novel, you can assimilate the story into two interpretive ways either literally or figuratively. In other words, The Inheritance of Loss is steeped in latent implications, some kind of esoteric reading. Every sentence appears to be so deceiving that I don’t think you cannot get at what Desai wants to imply figuratively. As a cliché puts, “ Read between the lines.” So, could you have this knack of writing skill? Dear me! you might beat your head against the wall thinking about the best and most beautiful fragments you could fabricate as long as 7 years as  Desai took time to finish it.

Second: The novel is what the social world must know . Its themes deal with the social issues nowadays even since before, not only applicable to India and Nepal but also to every nation in the world which must have the same conditions specifically such as :

(a ) American dream also exists in India. The western culture influences the psyches of Indians . Consequently, due to the extreme poverty probably brought about by big population, corruption, and ridiculous so-called Caste System, most Indians are so hapless that they dream of venturing out to the USA. In reality, their life turns out to be more miserable than what they expect to be.

(b) The effects of Imperialism and colonial-mentality upon the social system raise awareness among chauvinists and jingoists. In fact, in the novel, Sai’s retired judge grandpa shows an air of aristocracy and I-am- better-than-you attitude upon his arrival in India after long studies and services under the British government. Such social situation also exists in the Philippines.

( c) Secessionism. A political situation that loses the real identity of a nation.

The novel also deals with feeling of emptiness, the atmospheric feeling I felt from the beginning to the end.

“Could fulfillment ever be felt as deeply as loss? Romantically she decided that love must surely reside in the gap between desire and fulfillment, in the lack, not the contentment. Love was the ache, the anticipation, the retreat, everything around it but the emotion itself.”

All the rage in the story is the miscegenation between Sai Mistry and Gyan . I found their mutual understanding ridiculous, but their relationship could be symbolic , for Sai is Indian and Gyan; Nepalese.

On the other hand, the only thing that impedes my interest is the Indian words and dialogues with I am not familiar and beyond my understanding. But I believe this is the essence of writing such book; it only reflects the nationalistic observation of Kiran Desia.

Besides, I cannot brush the idea that this novel was as though each story in each chapter had just been patched together as Desai’s successful breakthrough after seven years of writing it. Still, it is a tour de force. Congratulations Ms. Kiran Desai! I envy your febrile imagination. ^^

Prior to this , Desai was already popular among literary critics for her Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard , which I will read as soon as I buy it. ^^

Rating : 5 / 5 stars


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