Friday, August 17, 2007

The Inheritance of Loss - 3M's Review

The Inheritance of Loss
Kiran Desai

2005, 318 pp.

Winner: Booker Prize, NBCC

Rating: 3

While this book has garnered much critical acclaim, I found it very difficult to complete. It took me over two months to get through it. Once I put it down, I just wasn't compelled to pick it up again. It sort of felt like a school assignment. Luckily, the last 1/3 of the book went by much faster than the first 2/3. Before reading, I would highly recommend doing a little research if you are ignorant (like I was) of Indian culture or history. One link that shed a little light on the subject for me was here.

There are two settings for the book--America and Kalimpong. Sai lives with her grandfather, a former judge, at the foothills of the Himalayas. She falls in love with Gyan, her tutor, who is sympathetic to the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF). The clash of ideals between the Indians who want change and those who wish to retain aspects of British colonialism is one of the two main conflicts in the novel.

The other conflict is that of the Indians who emigrate to the United States and the conditions of their lives once they live there. Biju, who is the son of the Judge's cook, is one of the lucky few who get a visa to go to America. But once he is there, is he really better off? The novel asks the question -- how much does each person care about their individual culture, nationality, and family. What does our "inheritance" mean to us?

While I appreciate these themes and do think the writing was brilliant at times, I wouldn't recommend this book for most readers.


  1. There are some things which cannot be understood when taken out of context. 3M, I think you need to work harder on your research before writing a review. It's as good as an Asian saying that The Line of Beauty is pathetic which we know it's not.

  2. Well, I would agree if it appeared that facts were misrepresented, but what I read in 3M's review is opinion -- and it's OK not to like a book. 3M acknowledged she was not well informed on Indian culture and I think it's commendable that she did do a bit of research.

    Can you recommend sources that would help others understand Indian culture and better appreciate Asian literature?

  3. @Laura: I agree with you that it is OK to not like a book. However the reason better be an informed dislike rather than a lack of erudition...

    It seems to me that participating in various challenges, many participants just do not heed to do any background reading for any of the books. The works are read as pieces of entertainment which unfortunately they are not. I've come across people who give weird reasons for not liking a book - the book was very slow with nothing happening while they turned the pages for a long time, the book was not as much entertainment as they thought it would be, or it read like a school assignment. These reasons speak of their lack of patience rather than any genuine cause for not liking the work. Much better than having such uninformed reviews is to not review these scholarly works of labor at all.

    I almost did not pen the comment. But then thought it would help the reviewer and penned it anyways.