September 30, 2013
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Sai has been brought up by her grandfather after her parents are killed. He is a distant man, whose only love appears to be his dog and Sai's main companions are the cook and the elderly sisters who see to her education. The cook has a son in America, who is struggling to make ends meet and achieve the greatness he believes can be found there. And then Sai has another tutor as she grows, a young man she is fond of who is to help her with physics. But he is pretty lost himself.
There are a lot of people to keep track of in this book. And sadly, I didn't really care about any of them. Not even Sai, who is one of the more sympathetic characters in the book. The judge, I found almost useless, even though everything seemed to revolve around him. His forays into his past didn't add anything for me and I couldn't even hate him despite his violence and apathy. Because he just didn't matter that much. The rest of the characters had briefer histories and not a lot of time, excepting the cook and his son Biju. But again, those felt more like interruptions of the book rather than part of the story.
Maybe it was all of the apathy. Maybe it was just the plot not really meandering anywhere. But this book was very hard to sink into. The language was nice enough. Desai definitely has a unique voice. But instead of making a book that I could care about, she just uses pretty language to talk about people that aren't that interesting. And while she does introduce a lot of political elements into the book, they felt forced and nobody has a positive description. From Americans, to Europeans, to Indians, nobody seems to have admirable traits in this book. I realize it's just a story of people struggling to get by, but if I wanted bad news with people I'm disconnected to, I'd just turn on the news. When I read a book I want to be able to understand the characters and feel for them.
Maybe I'm too picky, but this wasn't for me. I can't even really judge who this would be a good book for, but I'm sure someone out there likes it.
The Inheritance of Loss