Katie's Reviews > Q&A

Q&A by Vikas Swarup
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's review
May 11, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: clever, asia-india-middle-east, needed-more-time-in-the-incubator

I get pretty obsessive about keeping my books and my movies separate. There are rules, you see, and without rules defining how books and movies should interact, I just don't know where we'd be. As a nation, I mean. So as such, it's imperative to follow the following:

Rule #1: Always read the book first. It's critical that you visualize the story and the characters on your own without, say, Jennifer Aniston's face in your mind.

Rule #2: When we're talking about fluffy lite-reading books, the movie will be better than the book. (See: The Devil Wears Prada, Confessions of a Shopaholic)

Rule #3: Never buy a book with the movie-edition cover, even if you're reading it before seeing the movie. Testify: I read my mom's copy of Friday Night Lights and loved it so much that I wanted to own the book for myself. Problem is, just after I finished reading, they announced they were turning it into a movie, and the covers were updated with the little sticker that's like "NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE!" Fortunately, I have a very loving and sweet grandmother who scoured the planet to buy the last copy in existence without any reference to the movie. God bless Grandma. Sure, she's like 80 years old, but the lesson here is that you do what it takes when it comes to avoiding the movie edition.

Rule #4: Nicholas Sparks is unacceptable in either format.

Rule #5: I wish this would just go without saying, but the book that comes out based on the movie is always going to be the worst thing you ever read. The only example of this that I have right now is the Saved by the Bell series (Senior Class Trip, anyone?), but I think the argument is still valid, so the rule stands.

So. Now that we've established the rules, I'll start the real review by saying that I screwed up with Q&A. I saw Slumdog Millionaire and was completely and utterly oblivious to the fact that it was based on a book. How this could have possibly happened, I do not know, but I obviously had to try to make amends. By that, I mean "read Q&A."

I'm glad I did, and not just because it was 180-degrees from Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which just made me want to cry (although it was wonderful, 5 stars, and I highly recommend it to everyone).

Swarup uses the ingenious plot device of a game show to coax Ram Mohammed Thomas, our hero, into telling his life story. Gimmicky, some may say, but I thought it was clever and effective. I also liked getting to guess what the question would be based on the story he told because it made me feel like a total smarty-pants when I was right.

Three key downsides:

1. Unnatural dialogue. The writing was much smoother during RMT's internal thoughts and storytelling.

2. Confusing timelines. Since each game show question correlated to one story from RMT's life, it makes sense that the story would be told out of order. Still, I often found myself wondering where exactly we were in terms of chronology. Like, so story B happened before story A, but then story D was after C but before A, and no one has a clue where story E fits in. (Okay, it wasn't that confusing, but it could have been more seamless.)

3. An "and it all comes together!" ending, in which every loose end is beautifully tied up in a precious sort of way. I imagine Swarup hammering out the last chapter with the satisfaction one gets from snapping in that last piece to a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. (Which, by the way, I always need to be the one to do. Sometimes I even hide the last piece to ensure that I get to be the one with the honor of finishing the puzzle. Yes, I'm a little bit of an asshole.) This book is Bollywood fiction, though, and in Bollywood, there are no sad endings.

Those are relatively minor gripes given how enjoyable reading this book is. Even amid the story's darker elements, optimism and justice prevail. In the slums of India, sometimes you just need a happy ending, and Q&A at heart is simply a slumdog fairy tale.
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Reading Progress

May 11, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
April 28, 2012 – Shelved as: clever
April 28, 2012 – Finished Reading
May 7, 2012 – Shelved as: asia-india-middle-east
May 7, 2012 – Shelved as: needed-more-time-in-the-incubator

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Brian (new)

Brian Green Always so insightful

message 2: by Katie (last edited May 07, 2012 07:31AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Katie Hey thanks Brian! Some say "insightful," and others say "why are you rambling so much...." - ha. Glad you liked it!

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