Julie's Reviews > The Shadow Lines

The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh
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's review
Apr 20, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: 1001-books-to-read-before-you-die, fiction
Read in April, 2011

Last night I was watching an episode of Lost, and as usual with this TV series, I was confused about what was going on. Is this the past? the future? reality or a flashback? And all of a sudden I realized that I have the same muddled confusion over this book. The story is about a Bengali boy and follows his life from a child in Calcutta, through a college education in England and returning home to India. It is definitely set in a turbulent time period, from post World War II, through the India/Pakistan partition, to the late 20th century. I enjoyed many of the issues covered in this book - people getting displaced by Partition, living as a foreigner in another country and racial and religious bigotry. But the style of writing made reading this book feel like work instead of pleasure. The story is told as a young man's reminisence of his past, so some of the jumping around makes sense. But I found Ghosh's sentence structure incredibly difficult to read. Here is a single sentence:

That wasn't surprising, for my grandmother's contempt for the Sheheb had nothing to do with drink at all, as my father thought: it was founded on the same iron fairness which prompted her, when she became headmistress, to dismiss one of her closest friends - a good-natured but chronically lazy woman - from her job in the school: at bottom she thought the Shaheb was not fit for his job, that he was weak, essentially weak, backbone-less; it was impossible to think of him being firm under threat, of reacting to a difficult or dangerous situation with that controlled, accurate violence which was the quality she prized above all others in men who had to deal with matters of state. pg. 144 OK - that's 9 commas, 2 colons, 1 semi-colon, and 2 dashes. I'm glad I never had to diagram that sentence!
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Carmen (new)

Carmen Micsa Wow, Julie! I don't know how she slipped this monster sentence past editors! It has so many syntax errors and poor language in it, too! The use of too many sentences starting with "as," repetitions, and just pretentious language that needs to be trimmed down, or like one poet says "shed away the winter's fat from them"-Ha!Ha!! I tend to write longer sentences, but I've learned to shorten them, which helps create more tension and urgency.

Happy Easter to you and your family, and thank you for everything you do!


message 2: by Kusha (new)

Kusha *he

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