Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Impressionist” as Want to Read:
The Impressionist
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Impressionist

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,081 Ratings  ·  186 Reviews
Pran Nath Razdan, the boy who will become the Impressionist, was passed off by his Indian mother as the child of her husband, a wealthy man of a high caste. Pran lived a life of luxury just downriver from the Taj Mahal, but at fifteen, the news of Pran’s true parentage is revealed to his father and he is tossed out into the street—a pariah and an outcast. Thus begins an ex ...more
Paperback, 465 pages
Published March 25th 2003 by Plume (first published 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Impressionist, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Impressionist

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Oct 06, 2012 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This proved to be an exceptional novel to read while waiting at an Immagration office. Such a strange place, much like Old Trafford, the offices are unmistakingly dream factories. It would be unpleasant to wake most of the occupants. A friend from England raved over this novel and while I enjoyed such, it didn't sweep me away in a gale. It does make one ponder about those souls waiting in silence in bureaucratic queues. The veils of identity are quick and fungible. The consequences are a differe ...more
May 15, 2015 Ming rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a wonderful book that is chaotic at times but suits the thinking and behavior of the main character navigating chaos. clever and quite imaginative throughout and enjoyable. the scene of the tiger hunt was absolutely hilarious. also the sections about anthropology provide an extremely sharp and on-point critique.
Sarah Cypher
Sep 15, 2012 Sarah Cypher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book was recommended to me by a well-traveled, foreign-policy-savvy author friend of mine, and I found it to be one of my favorite books this year. It's a smart, wry, vivid, take on the hero's journey, where the hero is a fair-skinned Indian who seeks to pass as an Englishman during the Raj era.

The way the narrator follows the nameless (or rather, many-named) protagonist reminded me of Patrick Suskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, in that he's somewhat of a tabula rasa, an observer of
(I forgot that I've written this review way back in 2007! Young!Me is quaintly embarrassing. I don't have enough critical distance from this, but I sure hope I've improved as a writer.)

I’ve been reading a lot about Britain lately, or at least novels set in Britain and its former colonies. The Impressionist traces the life of Pran Nath, a boy with British and Indian blood, with his attempts to survive the societies that are alternately seduced and repulsed by him. He assumes different guises thro
An incredibly detailed, background-heavy tale about a mixed-race boy born in India at the turn of the 20th century, “The Impressionist” is Hari Kunzru’s reverse take on Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”. Pran Nath’s privileged life is abruptly brought to an end when a servant reveals his true origins; his father, far from the affluent Indian money-lender who has brought him up, was in fact a deceased English traveller whose path crossed that of Pran’s long-dead mother some 15 years previously. Cast uncere ...more
Jul 24, 2009 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Impressionist was written very well in parts, and in others, poorly. If you can get past those parts, then you can view the novel, on whole, as interesting.

I started off disliking the character, but then you end up liking him by the end of the first part of the book. You feel sorry for him and his life evolves. The second and third part of the book are hard to get through, but after that the story moves on more congruently and smoothly.

The ending was a bit perplexing, and I feel like the rel
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 23, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Who Feel No Need to Have a Sympathetic Protagonist
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
The flyleaf describes this as a "picaresque" tale. It's the story of Pran Nath, who grows up as a privileged, rich Brahman in the India of the Raj. When we first meet him at fifteen years old in 1918, he's contemplating rape: Somehow looking is no longer enough... He could grab her, and pull her down on the bolsters. There would be a fuss, of course, but his father could smooth it over. She is only a servant, after all.

And there I think is my core problem with this book. Style-wise this is well-
Madeleine Decker
Conceived during a freak flood in the middle of the desert, privilege young Pran is seen growing up in a rich family in Agra. After being kicked out for being a total spoiled ass, he ends up in a palace looking like a hysterical large pink iced cake, in a Scottish Mission in a Bombay slum, in Oxford and ends up in the middle of nowhere.

To survive he alternatively shifts from a rich Indian boy to a lower than nothing one, a male slave prostitute disguised as a woman, a servant coupled with a half
Jun 09, 2011 Jeruen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third novel of Hari Kunzru that I have read. However, I did not read them in chronological order. I first read Transmission a couple of years ago, and this was about the ups and downs of an Indian worker here in the United States who due to some obsession of his, created a virus that plagued the whole word, while working for Google. The second book I read, which was Kunzru’s third novel, is My Revolutions, and this was about a group of young English people who were rebelling against ...more
Nov 19, 2012 Liviu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mainstream, read_2012
another winner from H. Kunzru at least in the first 50 or so pages; should finish it this year; read more and now around page 200 and the book is indeed funny, sad, dark, ironic... the picaresque adventures of Pran aka Clive aka Chandra aka Robert; a magisterial skewering of the Raj, the scenes at the Nawab court are a must read for anyone still believing in the Kipling fairy tales

(it is 1914-15 and the childless/impotent but very traditional Nawab wants to adopt a young cousin rather than leave
Feb 28, 2012 Evelina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hari Kunzru ir sarakstījis aizraujošu stāstu „Impresionists”, kas ir ļoti populārs, jo ir tulkots vairākās valodās un saņēmis prestižas balvas. Tajā ir stāstīts par kāda jaunekļa dzīvi, kurā viņam nākas mainīties.
Šajā stāstā galvenais varonis iet savu dzīves ceļu. Viņš no bagāta puisēna, šokējošu iemeslu dēļ, kļūst par nabagu un veido dzīvi no jauna, tādu kāda viņam nebūtu ienākusi prātā, guļot zvilnī uz savrupmājas jumta. Viņš dažādu iemeslu dēļ mainīja savu dzīvesvietu un vārdu. Galvenais varo
Aug 27, 2009 Anne rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book, and for the first half of it, I did. But when a book is as centered around one character as this one is (despite the author thinking you need to know the full history of every person he crosses paths with, which I found unnecessary and distracting), the character can't just be interesting. I need more than that, and this book just didn't deliver. While the concept of the character was interesting, it went no deeper than a concept - the Impressionist, who puts on lives ...more
Sep 16, 2008 Billy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this one up because I liked his other book, My Revolutions so much. This is a completely different, almost fantastical, wide ranging novelthat follows a "half caste" Indian-British boy in the period after WWI. The boy goes from a pampered life to being thrown out of his families' home to the streets of Bombay, reinvents himself as an Englishman (with the passport of a murdered Brit.) From there, he goes to England, studies at Oxford, and ends up in West Africa on an anthropology expedit ...more
Oct 15, 2015 Meryl marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Anne 2014
Janet Trossell
The first novel by Hari Kunzru. Set in 1920s India of the days of the British Empire, an Indian child is born with a very pale skin. A very versatile being, Pran Nath is able to appear as an Indian or a European. At first revered, regarded as the son of an Indian lawyer, but then thrown out of his wealthy home when his actual parentage is discovered. He becomes a female impersonator in a brothel, is next taken up by a demented Scottish missionary until he makes his escape.
Pran Nath takes a voy
Sarah Goodwin
Mar 14, 2014 Sarah Goodwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only two things let this book down - the ending, and the fact that about a third of the way in, the main character's name changed with no warning.

Now, in all the sections his name changes, but in the first two he'd been identified as 'Pran' even after he was taken away and given a girl's name, so for a large stretch of the next chapter I assumed I was getting to know 'Bobby' as a character that Pran would encounter when he arrived in Bombay - only to realise that they were one and the same, whic
Sep 28, 2014 Sidra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well the book was indeed unique, one of its kind that I have read. the way I came about the book was whimsical at a take a book nook in kpj.

Now, the book was enchanting. It was raw, it described details and all different characters central to the impressionist. How they actually were connected all along. and how the book started in a cave and ended in a cave.

The themes of revolving issues of race with natives wanting to be like the English, and then the irony of being rejected for being too Eng
Mark Kennedy
It was my complete love of "Gods without Men" that lead me to explore the earlier novels of Mr. Kunzru. "The Impressionist" was interesting enough to read all the way through, but not quite satisfying. The protagonist might be meant to be a shape-shifter, but following through his adventures you feel that the connections that a person would have at their core go missing. I felt that the novel presented me with three main adventures and involved three different characters. Kunzru's strengths are ...more
Nov 25, 2014 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By turns sardonic, blackly comic, and sadly moving, this is a fine novel about discovering one's identity and finding a path thru a chaotic life. Prad Nath is conceived of a bizarre and magically realistic encounter of a hashish intoxicated mother and a confused,unlucky English 'imperialist',in the middle of no-where,in a monsoon. His birth and subsequent coddled childhood, in a cossetted part of the dying English raj, leaves him unprepared for the subsequent abandonment and hard-scrabble fight ...more
Bob Peragallo
A very hard read.....I could not get this book into my head, I speed read the last half of the book simple to get to the end. I gave it my best try, but am unable to recommend this book. The character development was poor, the wording was strange.

Sorry.....Far to much good good stuff to read to be bothered with this one.

Mar 24, 2012 Becca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know that I'll finish this book, though I'm probably 70% of the way done. I just don't really like it and feel like I'm forcing myself to plow through. I just dislike the main character and find a lack of redeeming qualities or relatable characteristics in him. So I'm done... for now, at least.
Mar 02, 2016 Melania rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Romanul urmareste aventurile si transformarile succesive ale lui Pran Nath, un copil indian nascut intr-o familie instarita din Agra, care este alungat din casa parinteasca atunci cind se descopera ca tatal sau natural a fost un ofiter al armatei coloniale britanice. Nevoit sa supravietuiasca pe strazile pline de pericole din Bombay, Pran Nath isi schimba succesiv identitatea, obiceiurile si preferintele sexuale. Dar usurinta cu care transgreseaza frontierele de rasa si d
Mar 18, 2014 Linda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bailed on this one at about page 100, did not like or care about the main character, the setting was never well defined and I frankly did not care about any of them. Made for a bit of discussion with book group but only the person who chose it had anything positive to say about it. I did find a few philosophical statements which I like, but not enough to slog through the remainder of the book. Did like his insight on conservative thought that believes if you keep things the way they are you can ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From colonial India to London, a man struggles to find and lose his identity. Great historical context and ironic look at British Imperialism.
...yeah I don't know. This book came along at the same time as White Teeth, and suffered for it.
Dec 29, 2015 Maggie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Eh. Many moments that are terrific and inventive, but overall it goes nowhere.
Jul 17, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not sure how I heard about this book, but I'm glad I did. Such a wonderfully told story of a mixed race (Indian/English) boy-then-man during the British Raj. After getting chucked out of his Indian "father's" house as a young teen when his true paternity is revealed (but not exactly to him), the main character. whose name changes are the chapter titles, struggles first to survive and then to fit in somehow, somewhere, preferably in the dominant culture. Whatever that is. Appearances are deceivin ...more
Having looked through other reviews, I really don't have anything valuable to add. The main character, Pran, begins his life in a family of privilege. He loses this place when his father finds out that Pran was actually fathered by a British man, and he is left penniless and needing to find a way to support himself. The book follows Pran as he takes on the identity of multiple personalities/roles in an effort to survive (thrive?), first in India and then England.

I DO think this is an incredibly
Apr 19, 2010 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes a good long read
This is a wonderfully written read about a boy's quest to find an identity, and the irony of his fate after he settles on one. It is Dickensian in its tale of a poor boy who has fallen from grace and must survive by his own wits and ability to charm, combined with a willingness to endure what he must to get along and get ahead. Like Dickens, Kunzru's plot depends on coincidence, but no such far-fetched ones as, say, David Copperfield. There will be no aristocratic far-flung or far-fetched savior ...more
Melissa Conner
For the first fifteen years of his life, Pran Nath Razdan enjoyed a life of luxury. Living just down the river from the Taj Mahal and being worshipped as one of the most beautiful boys in India, he was able to do pretty much anything he wanted. That was, of course, until word began to spread about his true parentage…namely his father…his common, low-life English father. Suddenly the life he had known is taken from him as this “result of a one night stand” is cast out onto the street to fend for ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's The Name o...: About a boy/man in England/India [s] 4 38 Nov 12, 2013 12:59PM  
  • Red Earth and Pouring Rain
  • The Romantics
  • In Custody
  • Solo
  • Witness the Night
  • Daughters of the House
  • India: A Million Mutinies Now
  • An Obedient Father
  • Crossing the River
  • Hall of a Thousand Columns
  • If You Are Afraid of Heights
  • Moses Ascending (Caribbean Writers Series)
  • Day
  • The Birthday Boys
  • Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard
  • How We Got Insipid
  • The Wish Maker
  • The House of Blue Mangoes
Hari Mohan Nath Kunzru (born 1969) is a British novelist and journalist, author of the novels The Impressionist, Transmission and My Revolutions. Of mixed English and Kashmiri Pandit ancestry, he grew up in Essex. He studied English at Wadham College, Oxford University, then gained an MA in Philosophy and Literature from Warwick University. His work has been translated into twenty languages. He li ...more
More about Hari Kunzru...

Share This Book

“Duhovna sloboda sveta direktno zavisi od politicke slobode Indije. Molimo Vas da stavite nesto sitinine u kasu.

Posle tri cetvrti sata gubi svaku sigurnost, posle sat i po, sasvim je rastrojen. I dok prodju dva sata straze, njegove granice su se savsim istopile i on je potpuno izgubljen, ili mozda ne toliko izgubljen koliko razasut svuda po tami, okretanje njegovog sveta ima iznenadne zastoje i sada uopste nije siguran ni ko je, ni sta je, ni gde je ili cak da li uopste ima pravo da naziva sebe on.

Dzonatan je naucio trik. Ljudi mare samo za spoljasnji izgled: sirinu manzetne, izgovor dentalno-labijalnog frikativa V. Da bi postao neko drugi treba samo da promenis krojaca i zapamtis da moras da dodirujes donjom usnom ivicu gornjih zuba. Lako je. Ali ako se promena lika ne desava spontano, onda noge gube oslonac i hvata te panika i onda nista ne moze zaustaviti pad. Onda je promena lika beg, onda je to trcanje uz saznanje da zaustavljanje moze izazvati sumnju da ustvari niko i ne trci. Niko ne trci. Niko se ne zaustavlja. Tu uopste i nema nikoga.

Kako se coveculjak okrece, tako se pojavljuju razne licnosti jedna za drugom. Svaka pojava traje samo nekoliko sekundi, najvise minut. Svaka brise onu prethodnu. Ovaj covek postaje neko drugi tako potpuno da se nista od njegove sopstvene licnosti ne moze prepoznati. Izmedju svaka dva utiska koja coveculjak stvara, u trenutku dok jedna osoba odlazi, a druga jos nije stupila na njeno mesto, coveculjak, imitator-impresionista, sasvim je bezlican, potpuno prazan. On je niko.”
More quotes…