50 books to read before you die discussion

A Bend in the River
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Buck (spectru) Our group read for January 2018 is the 11th book on or list of 50 Books to Read Before You Die: A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul.


Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 70 comments I am finished and am looking forward to seeing what others think. I am new to the group so I'm not sure how the discussion go. I rather enjoyed the book. I know very little about Africa, and am wondering whether the narrator's fictional experience is realistic. Myself, I got the impression he knew what he was talking about, from the descriptions in the book.


Buck (spectru) I read A Bend in the River three or four years ago. I didn't care for it, though I expect I am an outlier. I don't want to discourage others from reading this book from or list of 50, so I'll wait until later in the month to post my brief review.

In the meantime, If anyone else has read this book, here's your chance to tell us what you thought


Claire  | 3 comments I read the book last year and enjoyed it. I can understand not everyone likes it, but for me it was very interesting.


Jeffrey (wordsmith2294) | 26 comments I read it a while ago, too, and I didn't care for it. I wrote a full-on review on my blog here (careful for spoilers): http://jeffreycscott.com/a-bend-in-th....
Cliff Notes Version: I thought the writing was careful and subtle, but the content was too full of racism - specifically the narrator's view on the people of Africa. The book used the same kind of racism as Heart of Darkness did, with Africa was portrayed as place of savagery that needs to be saved by civilized countries.
All the same, the reason I didn't like it had nothing to do with it's quality. I definitely prefer a book I disagree with to a book that's written poorly.


Buck (spectru) I don't remember the racism in A Bend in the River particularly, but I definitely do in Heart of Darkness. I think it was the pervasive viewpoint in novels written during the era of the British empire, in the age of colonialism, and I presume it reflected the attitude of British society in general. Anyone who wasn't a European Christian was to be subjugated. (Which isn't to say that this attitude wasn't shared in America) The main character in A Bend in the River wasn't British, or even Western.


message 7: by Christine (last edited Jan 18, 2018 04:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Christine A Bend in the River was set in post colonial times. The unnamed country was independent but there was political uncertainty about the new regime which affected the lives of everyone living there, locals, expats and Asians. (I immediately thought of Uganda).

V S Naipaul's grandparents were Indian who where immigrants to Trinidad as indentured servants and he was born in Trinidad. In about 1950 he won a British Commonwealth scholarship which enabled him to study at any university in the Commonwealth. He chose Oxford and has lived in the UK ever since.

I have wondered if his background information for this novel came from speaking to Ugandan Asians because if you where a white expat, like many characters in the novel, you could have returned to your country of origin without any problems. However, African asians who were second or third generation, like the main character, were stuck. That is until someone like Idi Amin in Uganda kicked you out.

My favourite quote of his is - "In England people are very proud of being very stupid." - which is so true. I am English if anyone was wondering.

Buck - I think it was the pervasive viewpoint in novels written during the era of the British empire, in the age of colonialism, and I presume it reflected the attitude of British society in general.
Not in general, only the ruling class. They had the same attitude towards the working/peasant class, i.e. subjugation. It's been the same since 1066 (Norman Conquest). Most 'Victorian novels' are about the class of people that would be the colonisers (younger sons of the landed gentry and lower aristocracy, who are going to the colonies to make their fortune), except for Elizabeth Gaskell and some Charles Dickens novels.


Christine Jeffrey wrote: "I read it a while ago, too, and I didn't care for it. I wrote a full-on review on my blog here (careful for spoilers): http://jeffreycscott.com/a-bend-in-th....
Cliff Notes Version: I thought ..."


I wish there was a like button on Goodreads Jeffrey. I liked your review on your blog.


Jeffrey (wordsmith2294) | 26 comments Christine wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "I read it a while ago, too, and I didn't care for it. I wrote a full-on review on my blog here (careful for spoilers): http://jeffreycscott.com/a-bend-in-th....
Cliff Notes Ver..."


Thanks Christine! And thanks for the background on the author, that helps to understand a lot about what he wrote.


Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 70 comments Jeffrey, your review is right on. It IS a depressing, downbeat sort of book, but very well written and, I think, enlightening. The narrator is NOT particularly likable, although often I sympathized with his circumstances. Spoiler alert! I was confused about his reaction to when his servant, who was like a family member, betrayed him. He was curiously forgiving. I would have knocked him to kingdom come, if someone had betrayed me that way. Otherwise, he (the narrator) was not a nice person.
I thought the son of the merchandizer woman was an interesting character. Sorry, the names escape me.
I can't claim to know much about colonial and post-colonial Africa; I understand the book is NOT autobiographical; and yet it somehow rings true. It might be perceived as racist, but I find the story believable. I was not even aware of the Asian population in Africa who found itself displaced, although I have heard sad stories of white farmers who wound up going through hell.
Makes me want to know more.


Carol | 29 comments Hi, I'm just halfway through but I am loving this book. I love the style and the story. It had been on my list forever as a book everyone should read. So glad it was selected. Since he mentions Uganda, I'm wondering if he had a particular country in mind. I haven't read your postings yet because I don't want to be spoiled. I'll check in again soon!


message 12: by Buck (new) - rated it 2 stars

Buck (spectru) This is clearly one of those books some people like and some don't. Here's my review from May 2014: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


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