Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tony Messenger - 1973 Winner - The Siege of Krishnapur - J.G. Farrell

A short review here and I must admit I’m slightly embarrassed that it took me 39 years to discover this novel (well I couldn’t have read it when I was 10 years old but you get what I mean).  Straight into the top 10 list of my favourite Booker Winners, and would sit very high on that list.

My edition has a quote from a New Statesman review on the back cover “For a novel to be witty is one thing, to tell a good story is another, to be serious is yet another, but to be all three is surely enough to make it a masterpiece.” I couldn’t put it better myself.

The very readable, story basically tells the tale of a British community in Krishnapur (India) in the mid 1850’s. Part one developing the core characters of our tale, The Collector, the Magistrate, Harry, Fleury, Louise and Miriam; and parts two and three covering the siege itself and part four the consequential events.
There are magnificent passages and quotes that illuminate your thoughts;

Note: The following quote could be construed as a SPOILER

 “Culture is a sham…It’s a cosmetic painted on life by rich people to conceal its ugliness”

Passages that explore the human condition;

A lamp was burning in his study and in the glass of the bookcases he saw his own image, shadowy in detail, wearing an already rather tattered morning coat, the face also in shadow, anonymous, the face of a man like other men, who in a few years would be lost to history, whose personality would be no more individual than the shadowy reflection in the glass. ‘How alike we all re, really…There’s so little difference between one man and another when one comes to think of it.’

There are a plethora of reviews out there about this book and there’s not a lot more I can add about this novel, where a review in my own words feels almost heresy against the wonderful writing, composure and message of this book. One I’d highly recommend to anybody who is yet to discover J.G. Farrell.

I’m having a few weeks or months away from the Booker as I work my way through a few other award shortlists. I’ll be back with another shortlisted novel from 1973 as soon as possible.

Cross posted at my blog.


  1. Another fine review, Tony! There are two more books in this series: Troubles and The Singapore Grip. The former won The Lost Booker Prize awarded a couple of years ago. So you have more to look forward to!

    Don't stay away too long -- we'll miss reading your thoughts.

  2. Delighted to hear that this is going to be a pleasure to read since it's next on my list.

  3. Thanks Laura - I'm still not convinced I will read the Missing Booker - in my mind an Award given 30 years after the event leaves itself open to books that should have been on the list not ones that actually would have been. I may get to it, but still have 221 shortlisted or winners to get through before I make that decision. I'm sure a few more shortlists will be announced during the time I take to get to them all as well!!!! Currently doing the IMPAC Dublin Award Shortlist for 2012 but will be back.