Sunday, June 03, 2007

Inheritance of Loss- Kiran Desai

This novel follows the life of its characters who reside in, or once resided in, Kalimpong at the foothills of the Himalayas. The central character is Sai, an orphaned young girl who shows up at the doorstep of her grandfather, a judge, to live with him and their cook. The story studies her life, the judge's, the cook's and his son who is an illegal immigrant working the restaurant circuit in NYC, and various other characters who live near them in the small village town. The novel is set around the time that the local Nepalese are seeking a seperate state in India and traces their village as it goes from idyllic and ideal to absolute unspeakable chaos and violence.

Though the book clearly showcases her wisdom and beautiful insights to life, there really is no clear solid plot in this novel. Its more a reflection of the characters and the lives they lived and who they were. And though it is a reflection of characters... Desai does not let us get too close to them. Her descriptions are lacking, the self reflection of their feelings is seldom... None of the characters are described to a degree where you can truly picture them, none really attain any degree of affection to the reader as they are presented distanced and disaffected.

Perhaps Desai wanted it that way, because her novel is really more than just about the people and the plot in and of itself but about the issues that the people of India have suffered with post-colonialism. She explains quite well the different ways that colonialism has affected the people of India by tracing different people in different social classes and age groups. I also loved the cook's son Biju's storyline and reading about what it was like to be an illegal immigrant in NYC struggling to make it through.

I feel that Inheritance is an important book for its highlighting of important issues, but for a book with good storytelling and plot or character development, I would not read this particular novel, but instead would easily recommend Zadie Smith or Khalid Hussein any day.