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96 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, page-turning romp
Ram Mohammed Thomas, a poor, 18-year old waiter from the wrong side of the tracks, becomes the biggest quiz-show winner in history, scooping a billion rupee prize in an Indian television programme which goes one better than 'Millionaire'. Unfortunately, the producers don't have the money to pay him, so instead, charge him with fraud. Fortunately, a young lawyer comes to...
Published on 20 May 2005 by Budge Burgess

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
If you are looking for hifalutin prose, then I am afraid this is not the book for you. If however, you are looking for a book written in simple language, which would keep your nose buried between its spine and your fingers turning its pages, this is just the right book for you. It is engaging, providing glimpses of an India that many of us know exists but which is hidden...
Published on 6 Nov 2008 by SMC


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96 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, page-turning romp, 20 May 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Ram Mohammed Thomas, a poor, 18-year old waiter from the wrong side of the tracks, becomes the biggest quiz-show winner in history, scooping a billion rupee prize in an Indian television programme which goes one better than 'Millionaire'. Unfortunately, the producers don't have the money to pay him, so instead, charge him with fraud. Fortunately, a young lawyer comes to his assistance. Chapter by chapter, the young man recounts his autobiography, the narrative of his fraught life illustrating how it is that an ignorant, uneducated teenager comes to know the answers to all the questions he is asked on the show.
This is a wonderful adventure as we piece together the life of young Ram Mohammed Thomas. He is a man with three names - no one can quite work out whether he is Hindu, Moslem, or Christian. He is a young man with many more identities. Vikas Swarup (an Indian diplomat), leads us through a lifestyle which passes sardonic, not to mention savage commentary on contemporary India.
The tale is almost Dickensian in the range of characters who appear on the pages, wholly Dickensian in its theme of the homeless orphan setting out to find his way in the world, transforming survival into fortune.
The tale is told in a dozen short stories which are woven together into a whole autobiography. We move backwards and forwards through Ram Mohammed Thomas' life, encountering the varied characters who shape his destiny. We have gangsters and robbers, Bollywood, poverty and exploitation, espionage and a wry dig at diplomacy and notions of racial and cultural superiority, and a reflection on how truth is always the first casualty of war as India and Pakistan square up.
Vikas Swarup writes a well-paced novel. Although the action moves back and forth through our anti-hero's young life, the pace of the novel is such that the various strands remain imprinted on your mind. Indeed, the author twists and manipulates your reading, holding back little surprises for you.
He comments on religious bigotry and the abuse of children. He presents cinema as the opium of the people, the glitz and glamour disguising the truth. He savages the role of television in pandering to the lowest common denominator, feeding greed, yet interrupting news coverage of the outbreak of war with adverts and the mundane. And Swarup also makes emphatic the gulf which exists in a world where caste, class, and money dominate and the rich cannot conceive that the poor might have knowledge, intelligence, and street-wise education.
An exciting, page-turning romp which will oblige you to think and question ... and a book which is already being widely touted as likely to be filmed in the near future.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flat out fantastic!, 3 Mar 2005
Q&A is an amazing book. One of the finest novels you will ever read. Possibly the best debut novel by an Indian Author. And the reason is not hard to find. Its the best marriage I have ever seen between prose and plot.
First the plot. An ill-educated, 18 year old orphan, working as a waiter in Jimmy's Bar in Mumbai, appears on the latest show in town called W3B - "Who Will Win A Billion" and correctly answers all 12 questions to win the jackpot of one billion rupees. The unscrupulous producers of the show are stunned. How can an illierate water answer all these tough questions. So they promptly bribe the police and ask them to frame Ram Mohammad Thomas for cheating. A young lawyer called Smita Shah suddenly appears in the police station where Thomas is being tortured, reads out the law to the Inspector and takes him away to her house. Then, over the course of that night - the longest night of Thomas's life - she gets him to recount the story of his life and how it enabled him to answer the 12 questions on the quiz show, question by question. So, as can guess, the novel has exactly 12 chapters.
Now for the prose. The story is narrated in a stunningly original first person voice. Simple yet supple. Non-melodramatic, yet lyrical. It made me laugh and it made me cry. Here's a sample- Ram Mohammad Thomas talking about his life in a juvenile home: "We huddle around the twenty-one-inch Dyanora TV and watch Hindi film songs and Channel V and middle-class soaps on Doordarshan. We especially like watching the films on Sunday.These films are about a fantasy world. A world in which kids have mothers and fathers, and birthdays. A world in which they live in huge houses, drive in huge cars and get huge presents. We saw this fantasy world, but we never got carried away by it. We knew we could never have a life like Amitabh Bachchan's or Shah Rukh Khan's. The most we could aspire to was to become one of those who held power over us. So whenever the teacher asked us 'What do you want to become when you grow up?' 'No one said Pilot or Prime Minister or Banker or Actor. We said cook or cleaner or sports teacher or, at the very best, warden. The Juvenile Home diminished us in our own eyes." The best thing about this novel is that it really makes you believe in luck, that indeed it could happen this way and the underdog can really have the most unlikely of triumphs.
For all those of you who have become jaded with exotic generational sagas from India or magical realist fables with talking parrots and flying carpets, Q&A will come as a breath of much needed fresh air.
Go read it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breakthrough first novel, 30 April 2005
Q & A is brilliant and stunning. From the boarish Colonel Taylor to the vulnerable Shankar, from the brothels of Agra to the seafront in Mumbai, every place and person has that brush and smell of India. I have rarely read anything more human or more accessible on modern India where Swarup touches lightly, yet provocatively on sensitive strands which run through its society. This is where Rohinton Mistry meets a 21st Century Somerset Maugham, portraying extremes of cruelty and kindness with understanding and compassion and without being judgemental. It is a book which hovers for a few days at the back of one's life with a yearning to return to it, while its characters and stories will linger for much longer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 and 1/2 stars would be more accurate, 17 Jan 2009
This review is from: Slumdog Millionaire (Paperback)
I liked this and read it fairly quickly as the structure of it - almost a series of short stories tied together - encouraged me to get to the end of each chapter (or two, or three) before putting it down. It's darker too than I expected it to be. I've yet to see the film, but I'm guessing it may be fluffied up a bit. I would have scored this more highly, but I felt the ending let it down a bit. It's not a bad ending, but a little hurried and unconvincing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable insight into Indian society, 3 Aug 2006
By 
Mr. P. Datta "Pritthijit" (Stockton on Tees, Teesside) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Q & A (Paperback)
Q & A by Vikas Swarup provides the reader a valuable insight into Indian society, which is beatifully narratted and delivered in this novel. The key areas pointed out in this novel, which charaterized modern Indian society are the caste system, corruption, illegal sex, widespread poverty and long standing passion for Bollywood and cricket.

The story runs in parrallel with Ram Mohammad Thomas a contestant in a quiz show along with various events occurring in his life. He is accussed of cheating in the show in which he wins a billion. The idea is based on the army general who cheated in Who want to win a millionaire in UK. That is the general gist of the story. A section which accompanies this novel is an interview with the author. This section is interesting to read.

Overall, Q & A is an enjoyable read and gives you a real taste of Indian culture. There is contrasting sides to the Indian society you will witness as a reader. The good side combined with the dark side.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional read, 25 Mar 2007
This review is from: Q & A (Paperback)
This is an exceptional read. It's, and I do not exxagerate, one of the finest debut novels I have ever read. It is the finest novel from an Indian Author I have ever read, because it doesn't pretend to be anything, it doesn't try to be poetic, or flowery, it doesn't stink of Arundhati Roy. Here's why.

A short background first. Q and A is the story of a life less ordinary, of an orphan named Ram Mohommad Thomas, and how he manages to win Rs. One Billion in a quiz show, by answering 12 questions. The book starts off with his arrest for winning, as a simple waiter living in Dharavi could not possibly have answered quiz questions without having cheated. The book relates his story in first person, and how he explains how he got lucky. The narrative takes us through his life, explaining just how he picked up the knowledge to answer those series of 12 questions.

Now, to the craft itself. The narrative is simple, first person, and very expressive. The story is a wonderful construction, a series of coincidences, of meetings and opportunities won and lost, with Villians, heroes, bad guys, good guys, dacoits, film stars, contract killers, and everything in the world in tow. I've heard the book has already sold movie rights, and I'm not suprised. It would make for an incredible watch. I can hear you saying Forrest Gump already, but this, I assure you, is a lot better. Forrest Gump carries with it an air of complete disbelief, which makes you smile all the way through, whereas Q and A carries with an eerie air of belief, of situations that we've seen or heard of, of a life some of us live, and some choose to ignore. Whereas a Forrest Gump lives through a picture perfect life, Ram Mohammed Thomas has seen joy, suffering, pain and loss. This gives it an Aura of realism, and keeps it from becoming Filmi.

The narrative is brilliantly constructed, and is storytelling at it's finest. Books these days, well, novels, have forgotten what they are supposed to be about, which is to tell a tale, spin a yarn. This book brings that lost art back, it has no moral, it has no fancy characters, with inner turmoil and angst, it's a potboiler of a story, plain and simple.

Now, to the ending. I wish I wrote it. I finished the book, and aside from an appreciative content smile on my face, only one thing came to mind, "Damn, I wish I wrote that". The ending has the kind of twist you expect at the end of a great story, and if I wasn't a writer myself, I couldn't have appreciated the thought and sentiment that goes into coming up with something like that.

What is it?

Read it and find out.

Oh, I'll leave you with the last line though.

"Because luck comes from within."
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding, 30 May 2006
By 
R. Paul "booklight" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Q & A (Paperback)
Swarup uses his intellectual charm to make you turn the pages of this book right to the very end. The simple but articulate style of writing only appears to be melodramatic on the surface but underpins a great storyline that unfolds and alternates between tragic and comic. The book is thoroughly entertaining and the authors sharp wit adds to a highly inventive narrative which will cease you from the very beginning. A short review does not do justice...it must be read to be loved!!!Astounding!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, 26 April 2006
This review is from: Q & A (Paperback)
A friend recommended this book to me. I was not expecting much from it, but the storyline and the writing simply blew me away. I finished it in one sitting. The book is simply unputdownable. A charming, humorous, touching, uplifting story which also reveals so much about India. I think it makes the ideal gift.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth a read, 10 May 2006
By 
S. Nambiar "steelyman" (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Q & A (Paperback)
The conceit of the quiz show format dictating the structure of the book is a little too cute, but the writer does a very good job. It is worth noting that the Indian equivalent of 'Who wants to be a Millionaire' was a fevered hit, much more so that it was in the UK. Imagine Harrison Ford hosting it instead of Chis Tarrant and you will begin to understand the profile it got with Amitabh Bachchan hosting it and the consequent ratings. Hence, the premise that a TV quiz show attracts this kind of attention is entirely believable.

At times, the plot seems to go really over the top, but then I pulled back and realized that none of it was too unrealistic - Bollywood film stars are indeed known to check out their own films in strange disguises, life in the Bombay chawls is reputed to be very much as described and a lot else rings true as well. Definitely worth a read - it would be interesting to see if Vikas Swarup has staying power. A lot of contemporary Indian authors seem to have one excellent debut novel in them and not much else. Let's hope his second novel, apparently in progress, lives up to this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Q & A, 16 Jun 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Q & A (Kindle Edition)
This is more a series of interweaving stories than a novel, but it is still a vastly entertaining journey through the life of Ram Mohammad Thomas - a young, orphaned and poverty stricken waiter who wins a fortune on a game show and is then arrested when accused of cheating. When the lawyer, Smita Shah, rushes in to rescue him from torture, he ends up explaining how he managed to answer all the questions successfully and simply through good luck. Each chapter of the book corresponds to a question and explains how his life gave him the answer.

The author weaves young Ram's life backwards and forwards, introducing us to a cast of characters that appear throughout the book - the kindly Father Timothy who took him in as a baby and gave him his religiously tolerant name, his best friend Salim, his beloved Nita and others. The cast of characters include hired assassins, out of work Bollywood actresses, Australian's with a mania for spying on people, voodoo priestesses and more. Overall this is a really fun read and you are really rooting for Ram to beat the system (for once) and emerge victorious. The author has since written another novel, Six Suspects, which I also look forward to reading.
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