Bonnie's Reviews > The Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
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's review
Jul 06, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: booker-prize-winners, world-lit-india, contemporary-fiction
Read from June 17 to July 06, 2010

When book reviewers and award committees act like a novel is The Second Coming, it makes it all the worse when it is barely passable. Perhaps the most telling blurb, the one that should've warned me, was the one that read "If God is in the details, Ms. Desai has written a holy book." Because heavy on the detail is exactly what this book is. I for one, think the devil is in the details and he likes to use them to make books slow and meandering.

Desai can write some beautiful sentences, but that's about the best of what she does. This book has I Want to Shock Complacent, Staid Westerners written all over it, which is pretty much book critic/committee bait. Don't get me wrong, the points that Desai is trying to make are important. It just needs a subtler touch, or at least one that can produce a good story out of it.

Because the story is...not really there. And the characters are pretty much crap. When I don't give a damn if every single one of them goes up in flames then there is something wrong. Especially the Judge character who I particularly WANTED to go up in flames (abused his wife in just about every possible way and never really felt bad about fact, I don't think he ever cared for a single human being as much as he cared about his dog. And I think Desai was trying to say that this is a large part to be blamed on colonialism, etc., but I think it's because he is a horrible, horrible person and would have been just as horrible without the British helping to frick his life/India up).

When I closed this book, I was surprised to find myself whispering "I hate you" to it. Partly it was because I was sleep deprived and stayed up late finishing the last 100 pages of this damn book in my little free time because I had started it two weeks ago and just wanted to get it over with. But partly because this book is such a waste. It could've been great, it should've been great, the critics told me it was great. I WANT to read about the plight of illegal immigrants in the States, I WANT to read about the legacy of colonialism, I WANT to read poetic writing, I WANT to read about India, I WANT to read about characters that might not be likeable, but are real and psychologically complex. But I also want to enjoy the book. And I didn't, I really, really didn't.

I would also like to note the obvious contempt that Desai has for Indian-Americans/Indians who live abroad and don't have close ties to India (not a single likeable one; mostly they were just there to be strawmen).

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