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The Elephanta Suite

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,367 ratings  ·  208 reviews
A master of the travel narrative weaves three intertwined novellas of Westerners transformed by their sojourns in India.

This startling, far-reaching book captures the tumult, ambition, hardship, and serenity that mark todays India. Therouxs Westerners risk venturing far beyond the subcontinents well-worn paths to discover woe or truth or peace. A middle-aged couple on
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Hardcover, 274 pages
Published September 26th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Average rating 3.36  · 
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 ·  1,367 ratings  ·  208 reviews


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Annet
Great read!
Mayank Chhaya
Dissecting India with discommoding success

Unqualified praise is but one response to any work by master stylist Paul Theroux for he is able to provoke, infuriate, annoy, anger, rile, stimulate and eventually persuade with equal facility.


His latest book, The Elephanta Suite sets out to slice through myriad and complex cultural layers that make up India. He does it with discommoding success. Mind you, a lot of what he says about India through his protagonists can be construed as an unabashed
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Patrick McCoy
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have to say I really enjoyed the three novellas in The Elephant Suite set in India by Paul Theroux. And a part of the reason I enjoyed them so much was that I knew about the inspiration for them and some of the real life experiences that Theroux had while traveling in India for his book, Ghost Train To The Eastern Star. Theroux was disturbed by India and couldn't fully reconcile himself to those experiences he had and I think writing these novellas were a way to set down his feelings and ...more
Rana
Oct 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I read this book a month back.
I have this curiosity to know what the white man thinks of Indians. Its like fishing for compliments.Whenever a white skin of minor importance, because the majorly important give this place a wide berth, visits Cal, the inevitable question asked is, "Do you think that Calcutta is India's cultural capital???" Whatever that means.The charitably affirmative reply is lapped up gleefully and even makes near-headlines in the Telegragh.
The same mentality made me read Paul
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Beth
Mar 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
The only reason I managed to finish this book is because it was three short stories. I did not like the first two, Monkey Hill and The Gateway of India. The last one, The Elephant God, I enjoyed until the end. According to the front jacket "Theroux's portraits of people and places explode stereotypes to exhilarating effects." I did not find this to be the case at all. In fact, I found the stereotypes to be just that, stereotypes-both of the Indian and American characters.
The writing wasn't
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Sharon
Sep 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Three varied stories where the suite features in each story and indeed some characters flow into the next story but other than foreigners exploring the rich differences of India compared to home and each main character attempting to find their own truth of themselves, the three tales are richly different and memorable. Good read. Good writer.
Jim
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, india
Paul Theroux's The Elephanta Suite is named after a luxury hotel suite in Mumbai (Bombay) that figures briefly in all three novellas in this collection.

The first, "Monkey Hill," is about a wealthy American couple who stay at an idyllic ayurvedic spa. They react well to the therapy, but slowly find themselves drawn sexually to the therapists. Suddenly, the spa seems to change hands and the couple are thrown into a rickety vehicle headed through a mob protesting the conversion of a Muslim shrine
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Shamim E. Haque
Although Theroux paints a very negative picture of India, it is a very well written book and it kept me attentive all the way to the finish- 345 pages! I think that is why I gave it 5 stars. Paul Theroux, in dealing with his impressions of India, is also dealing with a very complex, troubled and elusive India: an India that cannot be summed up in a few lines or the scope of a novel, one that is beyond good and evil, but possibly negative and tragic. Its true nature always eluding the ...more
Katie
Jun 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Three novellas by Paul Theroux about Western travelers in India.

The first is about a very privileged husband and wife, both of whom cheat on the other while in a fancy spa in the mountains. They end up overstepping their bounds by hooking up with the wrong people in India, and the staff at the spa rebel and ultimately reject them. The husband and wife get chewed up and spit out in a typical Paul Theroux violent, chaotic, lost-in-a-foreign-land way.

The second is about a Western businessman who,
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Mikey B.
Sep 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
3 Novellas Set in India

These are three novellas set in India. They revolve around three sets or types of Americans in India. The most convincing is that of the young American female tourist. The other two are about an American businessman (in his forties) in Mumbai, and a middle-aged couple in a yoga camp or ashram.

The stories are all entertaining and very readable and the Indian settings conveyed by Paul Theroux are indeed vivid.

I do have a problem with why these people are in India -
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Alex V.
Feb 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Like the grubby Americans whose adventures are documented in the three stories here, I was expecting a romantic experience with India in this book: the scents, the crushing poverty, moments of serene beauty and transformation.

What you get instead is a grim two-sided world. The pampered pale foreigners on one side, and the intricate mass of india on the other, both relying on dehumanizing usage patterns to survive. The Americans are clearly, brazenly using the Indians, and the Indians play on the
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Sharon
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Fascinating read. Americans in India, overwhelmed. Maybe seeking something that they are not sure of. The common thread for these three stories is the Elephanta Suite.

One story is about the "vacationing" Americans and how they are protected from the poverty and living conditions the people who serve their tables experience. And how they both, in their own time, become debauched in their minds.

The second story is a high powered business man, in the business of outsourcing deals, spending his
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Hadi
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
All three stories are a bit disturbing, the first two left me feeling a bit "what was that about?" The people in them weren't very interesting or likable, and I found the ending unsatisfying . I liked the third story best, Alice's experiences with her travel-mate, at the ashram and her relationship with the elephant who avenges her made for interesting reading, even if they ending was as dark as the others.

Some of his descriptions are very good, but with few exceptions (the Jain, the mahout and
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Patricia
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-books
Read this somewhat disturbing book in a weekend. It essentially consists of three short stories with just a bit of a connection between them. The author looks at modern life in India through the lense of three different sets of American eyes. Slightly troubling but did a wonderful job capturing the sights and smells that I experienced on my short visit there a few years ago. He uncovers the skepticism and narrow-mindedness of Americans while also acknowledging some of the darker sides and ...more
Connie
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I liked this book enough to read it fairly eagerly, but I was annoyed. I have been a young foreign woman travelling in India with a back pack, and I have also been a wealthy middle aged American lady at the guarded resort. Haven't been the debauched foreign business man... Theroux gets a lot right about those experiences, and that isn't even the task of fiction. I guess the problem is that Mr. Theroux's narrative voice comes through really strongly, arrogant and conflicted. I can really relate ...more
Maryan
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it
These 3 novellas offered a view of India that is quite different from what I have read in the past. Theroux's characters' views of India and Indians swings from magical to diabolical depending on circumstance and personal expecations. American attitudes and actions are contrasted with Indian needs, beliefs and customs. The results of these interactions are sometimes tender but more often brutal. There are few winners in these tales and the reader senses that those who find contentment are ...more
Sanjay
Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Should be two-and-a-half stars, actually. Well-written, with an eye for the telling detail, but containing too many generalisations about India -- at times, one wasn't sure whether these were the characters' thoughts or the author's. These three interlinked novellas chart the consequences of interactions between visiting Americans and India, telling of what happens when they leave the safety of their hotel room, spa and ashram. Somewhat stereotypically, sex and spirituality play large roles. ...more
Annet
May 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
Unsettling read, but very intriguing and challenging. Three novellas that are in a subtle way connected, about Western people's experiences in India. Stories of a dark nature, fascinating all three of them. The three stories kept me intriged from beginning to end. Reading this, India high on my list as to be visited, made me wonder, do I want to visit this country. The answer is still yes.
Beautifully written book, about India, about people's behavior in different situations. Definitely 4 stars
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Troy Parfitt
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Elephanta Suite is a collection of three novellas set in India. There is a bit of thematic and symbolic overlap across the stories, yet they are quite distinct. The novellas are all good. Theroux is a steady and compelling writer, describing how his characters feel and the impulses and instincts that underlie their actions. Details make the backdrop authentic and immediate, and its clear the author has spent a considerable amount of time in the country.

Indeed, Theroux has an anthropologists
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Dana Clinton
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I needed a book whose author contained an X in the name to satisfy a recurring bookring I participate in, so I headed to my huge to-be-read shelf and found Paul Theroux and his excellent book The Elephanta Suite. How long might it have sat upon my shelf without the nudge of this reading ring? In this series of three novellas, all set in India, I was immersed in a wash of contradictory feelings, much as the different characters are, as Theroux presents India as seen through the eyes of different ...more
John Ratliffe
Dec 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is my fourth Theroux, and I keep saying my last. But, this is my first to see his fiction. His writing still seems to me somehow uneven, yet vulnerable and all too human, an endearing quality. So, it may not be my last. These three loosely connected novellas in The Elephanta Suite are set in India, and they do their best to convey the maddening mysteries and contradictions of India, dealing with persons Indian and Anglo, as well as their places. I would have liked more place and less ...more
Isabelle
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm surprised more people aren't raving about this book or rating it a full 5*s! Theroux has a gift - it is almost as though I can picture him in India, observing the people there so completely that they come to life on his page.

'Elephanta Suite' consists of 3 stories. The first seemed to come to an end all too soon - I wanted to see where this discontented English couple ended up. (Spoiler) Their death is assumed but this seems a cheap trick - let them live out the consequences of their actions
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Keith2314
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have read travel books by Paul Theroux. I am also a fan the BBC documentaries by his son Louis Theroux.

After reading a free sample of The Elephanta Suite years ago, I borrowed it from my local library via Hoopla Digital.

3 stories of Americans traveling and living in India. Giving any more detail than that would be spoiling some of the book.

I read this book and saw parallels the characters and myself. I spent much of my life living in Asia, and I could identify with the ups, downs, and
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Phoebe
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english, novel, indien
All in all it was a rather dark and cynical picture Theroux portrayed in the novellas. However, he gave the country a mythical and positive feeling (with its religion and rich culture) while acknowledging its metropolitan spots and more negative sides (with its corruption and illegal/criminal activities). An alltogether realistic picture (as with almost every place in the world), but a still mostly dark and sinister one - a bit too dark and anti-india for my taste.
His writing is very fluent and
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Sara
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was fantastic. Theroux did a great job here of exploring different tropes of an "India Experience" you have the spiritual quest couple, the more money than morals single guy, and the on-my-own-for-the-first-time young girl all seeing the same, yet different sides of India. At times the stories were dark, but they were also real. I found myself absorbed in each story in a different way. I didn't actually like any of the main characters but I was deeply invested in what would ...more
Pmcarver
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Vivid descriptions of Indian life which is no surprise since Theroux is known as a travel writer. Three stories about Americans who traveled to India and were changed by the experience. Good sense of the sights, sounds and smells of India but I didn't like the American characters. They were believable but very me-first.

Recommend it if you're traveling there or like to learn about different places.
Andy Thorn
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Some undoubtedly superb writing at times but although I found many of the characters and storylines interesting, I never really felt absorbed by them and at times I found the characters' actions and motivations illogical and slightly bewildering. I have never been to India and so cannot really judge as to how insightful these three short stories are but I didn't find it as enjoyable a book as I thought I would.
Benjamin
Jan 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
Tired re-hashing of stereotypes about India and the westerners who visit. Not worth reading.
Ms S
Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Well written, but 3 quite depressing and gloomy stories.
Kristine Morris
Took me over all year to finish this book. Slightly upsetting and uncomfortable reading - not what I needed obviously, but I was determined to get through it.
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best ...more

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