The Inheritance of Loss The Inheritance of Loss discussion

Brilliant! Luminous! Superb! (But is it really?)

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message 1: by Greg (last edited Aug 25, 2016 10:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg Zimmerman I know I'm supposed to like this book. It's won two major literary prizes. The story is unique, imaginative and has all the elements of good literature. Its characters are magnificent and real. So why can't I get into this book? Why do I find myself dreading having to pick it up to attempt to finish it? Why does my mind drift while I'm actually reading?

Has anyone else had this experience with this book? If yes, any idea why?

message 2: by Amy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:00AM) (new)

Amy I had a hard time with it too. I was travelling while reading it so I kept with it. I couldn't get into the characters. I found the girl's character (name?) maddening. Some passages were beautifully written, if occasionally overwritten, and I am interested in the history of imperialism, so I liked it for that.

message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:01AM) (new)

I'm Indian, and it was just really hard work to read it. It seemed like she both exploited and tried to distance herself from some of the "trademarks" of Indian writing in English. Greg- maybe your mind's drifting because despite a lot of action in the book's context, there's nothing really happening with the characters? I felt that way, I know

message 4: by erin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:01AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

erin I read this for a book club and NONE of us liked it (and usually there are varying opinions among the ten or so of us). I agree that it feels like nothing happens! Also, I just felt like there was no hope for any of the characters. My friends make fun of me that most of the books I read are "downers," but this was ridiculous - I need at least a thread of optimism to get me through!

message 5: by sarahana (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:03AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

sarahana like all other good/great/ok/brilliant/luminous books, it is subject to one's taste, and taste can never be seriously questioned, it just is! and the repertoire of one's personal experiences of all kinds results in a certain kind of reader at a certain point of time. having said that, i found it pretty easy to pick up the book and finish it. maybe because i'm from nepal and several of the ideas explored by kiran desai, esp. that of nationalistic rebellion amongst nepali teenagers in india and in nepal itself, have been important to me overall. also, so little has been written w/ such subtlety (and sense of humor) on that small part of the world she's presented, that small part of the world w/ its own share of politics and growing up. in any case, i didn't really compare her work to other indian authors because i don't find that's the best way to judge anyone's writing.

message 6: by Animesh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Animesh Not all books are easy reads. Not all good books are easy reads (think of Joyce). Not all difficult reads are good books either. The quality of being an easy or difficult read is hardly the scale on which the worth of a piece of literature is judged. This novel is a more difficult read than an average run of the mill novel. But with perseverance it reveals its precious insights. Yes, I took a long time to read its first 50 pages, then the rest of the book I finished in a night. Read my review.

message 7: by Tommy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tommy I love this book! I read it all through my travels in Japan. Finished it on the flight home. Desai's prose is simply beautiful. So many lines are poetic and extremely human.

I think if you found it difficult to read, it was probably because not a lot actually "happens"... but this is not a plot novel. It is not intended to be. It's all about character development and mood.

Sorry you didn't enjoy it. I hope you give it another chance.


He now pleaded directly with the judge: "We're friends, aren't we? Aren't we? Aren't we friends?"

"Time passes, things change," said the judge, feeling claustrophobia and embarrassment.

"But what is in the past remains unchanged, doesn't it?"

"I think it does change. The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind..."

message 8: by Sarovar (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:46AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sarovar I'm trying to get through it right now. Normally, I love what I describe as writers of ideas or writers who really take a novel approach to language and this certainly has that, but I can't get into it. I guess I find it kind of hollow behind that language. But granted, I'm not through it yet. I tend to read a lot of the heralded Indian or Indian-American or Indian-British writers in English. I had a lot of trouble with Jumpa Lahiri for totally different reasons. I feel like I should like this book, but I don't. Which means, I think I completely agree with the sentiment of the person who started this discussion. Hey, can I recommend highly A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It's got a few flaws but wow, it absorbed me.

message 9: by Rachel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:19PM) (new)

Rachel I agree entirely - I got through 50 pages and never looked forward to picking it up. I'm really happy to hear others have felt the same way! I've decided to move on to something else, at least for now. I just can't spend my free time reading something I don't enjoy.

Laura Wow, I'm glad so many people feel this way. I was beginning to feel like I was missing something, after all it won the Man Booker Prize. But I really had to force myself to get through it and in the end I just thought, "What was the point of that?"

James I must say, I really enjoyed reading this book. I found the language Desai uses to be very enjoyable.

That said, I don't feel it should have won the Booker. For the ambition, it didn't fail miserably. Indeed, it performed rather admirably, but not enough.

I feel it should have been either twice as long (in which case she could have really fleshed the situations out) or a lot shorter (which would have required eliminating many of the characters).

As it was constructed, though, it wasn't simple enough and it wasn't sufficiently complex. It was as if it needed a rewrite to really tighten it up.

Kassie I felt the same way. I started off really like it and the style and finally just came to a halt 3/4 way through....boring....i still plan to finish even if i have to skim.

message 13: by Beth (new)

Beth Carlson I feel the same way! I want to love this book, every few pages though, I keep drifting off. It's one of those, I'll pick it up another time, kind of books for me.

Marianne I'm glad others feel this way! I'm halfway through the book right now, and while I appreciate that it is a good book, I am BORED. I'll tough it out and finish it, but I won't recommend it to others.

Norman I borrowed this book while on my way to a writers festival where Kiran Desai was one of the featured speakers. First I tried to read it on the airplane and couldn't get into it, later I tried again in the hotel and quickly lost interest; finally, the morning before I was to hear Desai herself speak (and thinking that I should at least get halfway into the book before I heard the esteemed author) I sat down to FORCE myself to read it. And after about 60 pages, I gave up. I didn't care about the characters, there was nothing in the plot that gripped me, and the style of prose just didn't appeal to me. If it were the only book in the world, I might give it another go. Otherwise, nope.

Preeta I fell in the middle of this range of responses to this book. I felt I knew what to expect as the name of the book should tell you where the focus lays - not on the development of the characters per se but in the comparative, musings of the past and present.

In that sense, the book delivered what it promises. For those who don't know how to related with the Nepali struggle, with all the numerous variations of Indians and their struggle to live together in harmony but distinct, that are only interested in "colonialism" - do try to expand your views to really understand the true complexity that takes time and patience.

Such a subject should not be an easy read. It would be insulting to the Indian people who had and still have lives similar to the archetypes in Desai's book. How can you hate Sai who is a maturing teenager - did you hate yourself when you were unsure and figuring it out, caught between what is and what could be? How can you hate Gyan - do you hate the young men who fight for something they think they should believe in, make mistakes they regret and then make those mistakes again?

Speaking of colonialism: "We need to get aggressive about Asia" the businessmen said to each other. "It's opening up, new frontier, millions of potential consumers, big buying power in the middle classes, China, India, potential for cigarettes, diapers, KFC"...If anyone dared to call them Fool! they could just point at their bank accounts and let the numbers refute the accusation.

message 17: by Afroz (last edited May 05, 2008 10:49AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Afroz Ashrafi Inheritance of loss celebrates the perception of doom induced by the self destructive attitudes of the characters created . The life away from the home land is an exciting proposition atleast theoritically. Pragmatism has its own demands and calls for its own adjustments . Biju never finds himself going , never reconciles to the dogma of alien dreams seen on alien lands , and struggles to go past the psychology of being away from the root . In him the pain of rootlessness is all the more evident and the gloss and the glamour of a wild world that promises dollars does not impress him and he remains obsessed with the simplicity of the root , the village calling him back , his father being a hallucinatory image all work in tandem to create an impression that all is not well outside . Kiran Desai does not appear well versed in the art of delineating characters as her world is infested with contradictions and the proximity to the details are not at all convincing . she writes about people she is not very sure of . The inexplicible brewing angst within Biju is the result of a coy intent to be a part of the mad srambling , a situation Desai handles without maturity .

message 18: by Jen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jen Wow, what a relief to see that it wasn't just me who was frustrated by this book. Gorgeous prose, but a chore to get through.

Sally It is a relief to see that most people felt the way I did as I read this book. It was very enlightening, but as a story, it wasn't very captivating, entertaining or even enjoyable. I learned much about India's struggles, but could never really enjoy reading the book.

Debbie It's too bad that so many people found the book hard to read. Not, it's not a "quick read", but it is such an important book politically and socially. And for the most part, very beautifully written.
I think it provides great insight into the problems of a modernizing world, and portrays some of the less admirable qualities about the way in which the US welcomes immigrants from the developing countries. If you take the time to read it, you will get to know each character very well, with all the subtle shadings of good and bad that the author provides. I thought it was brilliant!

message 21: by Utsuk (new) - added it

Utsuk Shrestha Hey guys, can you help me. I want your criticism anything that is related to justice because I am writing dissertation on it and i want your help.

Siddharth Sharma Debbie wrote: "It's too bad that so many people found the book hard to read. Not, it's not a "quick read", but it is such an important book politically and socially. And for the most part, very beautifully writte..."

The book is highly overrated and easily putdownable!

Joanne I didn't like it, couldn't finish it, but it did provide incentive for me to scrub my kitchen.

Ahmad K. Minkara I think immigrants get a chance to bond better with this book.

Ahmad K. Minkara Cannot agree more!

Avidreader I hated this book. Of all the books I have ever read, since I was ten and counting, this was THE worst. I think she *really* did not deserve the Booker. The language was so trite, the concepts mere platitudes, and the servile psychophantic descriptions revolting. I had a revulsion to the judge character, and I am not sure that was intended.

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Debbie wrote: "It's too bad that so many people found the book hard to read. Not, it's not a "quick read", but it is such an important book politically and socially. And for the most part, very beautifully writte..."

Importance does not equal quality though.

Dhanya I was 19 when I read this book. I couldn't assimilate the complexities and the non-linearities in the book in one straight go. I remember I discontinued and restarted atleast 2-3 times before I got into the skin of the story. Once that happened, it proved to be a captivating story relying heavily upon nostalgia and political disarray in the north-eastern part of region. Kalimpong has in a way become one of my to-visit places. The vivid imagery the author creates in the book draws one into being enamoured by the city.
All in all, it was a difficult read in the beginning and turned out to be a really enjoyable one towards the end.

All this being send, I've always had doubts on the merits of the book which won it the Booker.

message 29: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen I am so glad to see I am not the only one who gave up on this book. I like to read books about India, but just could not get into it.

Rosun Rajkumar I loved the book. Maybe I am Indian that's why. Growing up in a trouble torn place, I could relate to it. She is funny. I'll give her that. I am not sure how the humour worked out for others because of its strong Indian content but it cracked me up. Ending was quite chaotic. I felt it didn't lead anywhere and she had to simply abandon writing.
And yes I've never been to Kalimpong but it will forever be itched in my mind. Fine read!

Micebyliz after reading this book again, i picked up some of the humor and enjoyed the book much more. i think the first read i was just trying to figure out the plot.

message 32: by Jeganlal (new)

Jeganlal I am in Chapter 14 and already have overcome the temptation to give it up twice. Story doesn't move, and it is the captivating narration that is keeping me going.

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