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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Mythic battles of past and present, justice and injustice."
Writing with wit and perception, Kiran Desai creates an elegant and thoughtful study of families, the losses each member must confront alone, and the lies each tells to make memories of the past more palatable. Sai Mistry is a young girl whose education at an Indian convent school comes to an end in the mid-1980s, when she is orphaned and sent to live with her...
Published on 11 Feb 2006 by Mary Whipple

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sensuous writing, loose construction
From the first page the reader is struck by the extraordinary richness and brilliance of the author's imagery (though this is less consistent as the novel proceeds), and soon afterwards by the delineation the characters who are living in or near Kalimpong, under Kanchenjunga, the Himalayan peak on the border between India and Nepal. Living in an isolated house outside...
Published on 20 Jun 2007 by Ralph Blumenau


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most beautiful of books.., 18 Jan 2009
Recovering from flu, I was given this book and wondered whether I had any energy to read.. I began it, and without interruption, read it right through in two days. I emerged into a wintery British landscape with my mind swirling with pictures of Kanchenjunga, the jungles of bamboo and sunlight, and the lives of people I had not met, yet who seemed to be more real than anyone else for several succeeding days.
The language is often quite extraordinarily beautiful; phrases and concepts which cling in the memory.. and a larger world than other reviews have highlighted. Kiran Desai writes with such perception, and such a quality of observation, it is a constant delight.
It is a story which deliciously glances into the life-journeys of disparate people, but especially at the hopes surrounding Biju whose father has contrived to pay his passage to USA, in the belief he will earn his fortune, and along the way somehow find amazing jobs for any friends who manage to make the journey after him. The father is cook to the tiny household of the retired Judge and his grand-daughter Sai: born to be blamed, but illuminated by his devotion to his son. Biju, existing among rats, in a sub-world of unceasing labour, saving to afford the good life, and somehow acquire his Green Card, is totally real. There are profound observations ..'some people travel the world to become servants, others travel the world to be treated like kings'... Biju, whose subterranean life cooking in a succession of restaurants, and being short-changed by all, has no chance to learn even the name of the river running through the city he exists in! His travels have earned him something which he no longer wants, and discovers he does not value, and we accompany him through the eyes and hopes of his father, as well as through his own buoyant hopefulness, to the discovery that in the end, like Little Gidding, we end up where we started... yet never the same again.
The scenery is fabulously beautiful, breathtaking... bamboo jungles, sunlight, and the extraordinary closeness of the mountains. But the book is so well-paced that these snapshots accompany, rather than dominate, the story. As it gathers speed, there is a vivid sense of society unravelling, and the start of an almost casual destruction by over-excited young men which effortlessly becomes a murderous regime, is drawn with a light touch.
I can recommend this book wholeheartedly: in every way. And it lifted me out of the flu, onto another plateau..
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing but where's the story?, 1 Jan 2007
I enjoyed Kiran Desai's first novel, `Hullaballo in the Guava Orchard' very much and was looking forward to reading her second novel, even before it won the Booker. Her wry turn of phrase, acute observations, great dialogue and eye for satire are all there in the new book, as are the well-drawn characters, but `Inheritance of Loss' lacks a focus, an overriding premise and a real story to bind it all together. Some sections of the book are simply a collection of entertaining, but unrelated snippets, rather like a writer's notebook of oddball facts, observations and jokes.

I kept going because it is fantastically entertaining and readable, but I found myself wondering half way through, where is this going? What's the plot? Desai does not so much loose the plot, she does not have one in the first place. Also the American sections of the book, though enjoyable to read, did not, to my mind, connect with the rest. Is this a book about India or is it one about immigration? If it is about both, it needs to blend together more. Oh, and I find the title of the book utterly pretentious.

There is no doubt that Kiran Desai is a talented writer, whether she deserves the Booker or not, is hard to say. However, if she is to be great novelist and not a Booker fluke, she needs to find a story. She has the rest in abundance and I will definitely buy her next book.

Four stars on the whole. If it was just about the writing, it would be five.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Justified Winner, 12 May 2010
As with many people, I only became familiar with Desai and 'The Inheritance of Loss' through her success in the Booker Prize and when I bought the book I was blissfully unaware of the divisive opinion the book has inspired since its victory. However, an eyebrow was pointedly raised when I unwrapped to find 'Kiran Desai' in bright pink, raised lettering splayed across the front cover. (As an aside, the pictured copy actually turned out to be very pleasant to read with a decent sized font, well-spaced.)

My concerns were quickly allayed when I got into the book and I found it immediately engaging and delicately constructed. I notice the book has received criticism for 'over-cooking' some of the destriptions but I found, although my favourite author is admittedly Nabokov, that the prose itself was very enjoyable, even poetic and certainly went beyond merely developing the characters and plot. So strong was the aesthetic value of the text that it was only when I finished the book and reflected on it that I realised how brutal and unkind much of the book actually was. This is surely a strength of Desai's writing that she managed to offset some of the less pleasant aspects of the plot with beautiful writing.

The characters in 'Inheritance' are also very well developing, albeit teasingly. The judge is introduced as a grumpy, eccentric and potentially loveable old man and I was surprised when it suddenly became apparant that through exploring threads of his past he was largely, a beast. The short paragraphs which switch focus between characters is also very conducive to developing a range of insight, and just as importantly, keeps the story spinning out nicely without getting mired in one strand of thought for too long.

Desai's writing in 'Inheritance' touches on some quite unpleasant themes (however as I say above, this doesn't neccessarily make for 'difficult' reading). Her style is refreshingly observational rather than didactic so ideas and conclusions are not forced but rather suggested and allow some personal interpretation of the central ideas of the book, which I think is crucial as generally people want a book to open their own minds rather than give the objective assertations of the author. Essentially it is a novel not a political manifesto. Interestingly, Desai manages to provoke an alternative view of immigration into the developed world where automatic assumptions about the inherent advantages of our 'lands of opportunity' and greater personal wealth should not be the hold the unquestioning totemic value that they do.

'Inheritance' is a pleasing length which manages to be both accessible and insightful - and best of all is an engrossing read. I highly recommend this book, though evidently there will be some dispute amongst reviewers!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping and moving read, 27 April 2009
By 
H. Munshi (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This was a book I read while journeying through Japan. It seemed apt somehow as this book is very much about journeys and crossing boundaries. Be they of culture, continents, generations and ideas.

It reminded me very much of the God of Small Things, exploring how the legacy of colonialism impacts current generations and permeates one's relationships and self-identity.

While the narrative is dense at times, this is a very beautiful and moving story told from a number of perspectives. It is worth persevering. It sheds much light on the experience of the Indian Diaspora.

I would highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Inheritance Of Loss by Kiran Desai, 12 July 2008
The Inheritance Of Loss by Kiran Desai is a magnificent, impressive novel that ultimately is disappointing. As a process, the book is almost stunningly good. As a product, it falls short.

The book's language, scenarios and juxtapositions are funny, threatening, vivid and tender all at the same time. The comic element, always riven through with irony, is most often to the fore, as characters grapple with a world much bigger than themselves, a world that only ever seems to admit them partially, and rarely on their own terms. The one criticism I have of the style is Kiran Desai's propensity to offer up lists as comic devices, a technique that works a couple of times, but later has the reader scanning forward to the next substance.

An aged judge lives in the highlands of north India. As political and ethnic tensions stretch through the mountain air, he reconsiders his origins, his education, his career, his opportunities, both taken and missed. He has a granddaughter, orphaned in most unlikely circumstances, as her parents trained for a Russian space programme. But what circumstances that create orphans are ever likely? She is growing up, accompanied by most of what that entails.

The cook in the rickety mansion is the person that really runs the household, his rule-of-thumb methods predating the appliances he has to use and the services he has to provide. He manages, imaginatively. He has a son, Biju, who eventually forms the centrepiece of the book's complex, somewhat rambling story. Biju has emigrated to New York, where he has made it big, at least as far as the folks back home think. On site, he slaves away in the dungeon kitchens of fast food outlets, restaurants, both up and downmarket, and a few plain eateries. Kiran Desai provides the reader with a superb image of globalisation when she describes the customer-receiving areas of an upmarket restaurant flying an advertised, authentic French flag, while in the kitchen the flags are Indian, Honduran, anything but French. Now there is true authenticity for you, offered up in its manufactured, globalised form.

Biju, of course, dreams of home, but the comparatively large number of US dollars he earns - at least as far as the folks back home see it - barely covers essentials in someone else's reality.

The narrative of The Inheritance Of Loss flits between New York, northern India and elsewhere, and also between the here and now, yesteryear and the judge's childhood. And perhaps it flits too much, because the scenes are often cut short before the reader feels they have made a point.

And ultimately this reader found that the book lacked focus. While the process was enjoyable, the product was not worth the journey. The Inheritance Of Loss seemed to promise to take us somewhere in this globalised confusion of identity, motive, routine, unrealised dreams and intangible desires, but eventually it seemed to have nothing to add to a sense of "well that's how it is", which is precisely where we started. There was an opportunity for more, but it was ducked.

The book was thus a thoroughly enjoyable read that threatened to achieve greatness through statement, but unfortunately missed the mark, and by a long way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Reverse Passage to India Filled with Wit, 25 Mar 2008
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
If you like humorous books about how people live self-sabotaging lives to preserve their illusions of superiority, The Inheritance of Loss will delight you. If you prefer a novel that carries a strong plot line and significant developments you cannot predict, you'll wonder why anyone would read this book.

As I read the book, I was reminded of P.G. Wodehouse's writing. Mr. Wodehouse's novels were all rather similar, silly, and filled with predictable situations. But on each page there was a sentence that was so novel, fresh, and intriguing that it would stop your eyes while you thought about what you had just read.

Ms. Desai demonstrates a similar ability to create startling writing, but in her case the writing brings out loud laughter . . . at least it does for me. My wife said she hadn't heard me laugh so much while reading a book in years.

Here's an example. A group of young men is demonstrating in favor of independence. One talks about a better world he wants to create: "We will provide jobs for our sons. We will give dignity to our daughters carrying heavy loads, breaking stone on the road." That vision of male liberation has to make you laugh.

The other genius of the book is demonstrated by the ironies that Ms. Desai shares with us to suggest that our dreams are pretty dangerous. Why are they so dangerous? Dreams assume we control what happens to use. Ms. Desai is describing a world where someone with a sense of humor is running the show. For example, her father strives hard to become an astronaut . . . but loses his life in a mundane accident in a country he would never have visited if he hadn't had such a dream.

You could draw the conclusion from that example that Ms. Desai is a cynic. Actually, she loves people and finds them comically naive when it comes to pursuing their dreams. Her prescription would be to get some good information and then choose a direction that is practical for accomplishing something you want. Too many of the dreams she portrays are about class, status, and envy. Those dreams should always be suspect. Her vision is of a world where those perceptions should be no longer relevant, as A Passage to India taught.

I liked the way that she combined the ideas of people traveling to other countries and to other parts of Asia in search of something that they thought they couldn't find at home. That's why I called the book a reverse Passage to India. The most developed characters in this book are Indians who left India for at least a time in search of their dreams.

Be prepared for much fun. The book's main drawback from my perspective is that the humorous sentences thinned out considerably in the final third of the book, giving the ending a tone that didn't match the earlier fun. The marvelous ironies continue but they aren't so much fun.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and melancholic., 2 Feb 2007
By 
A. Hope "bookcrossing ali" (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I wasn't disappointed at all. The language is lovely as is the imagery, it has a melancholic feel, and the interplay between the characters is brilliant. The story is a simple one in many ways, it is not a novel of complex plot twists, more of how these people have come to where they are, and then there is a good dose of politics thrown in. The character I will remember fondest, and longest, is the cook who misses his son - illegally living in America - so much he starts to see him as a figment of his immagination. The cook and his son - shouting awkwardly down the phone at each other is only one of many poignant moments for me. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Loss of Purpose., 31 July 2007
By 
maya j (Quail Crossing) - See all my reviews
'The Inheritance of Loss' begins with a teenage girl, her grandfather, his dog, and a servant/cook, and the lush descriptions of their location in India create a vivid picture of not only where they live but also how they live. After the initial introduction of characters, there is an incident that leads the reader to believe this book will be more of a political novel with musings about the Kashmiri and Nepali uprisings during the '80s. Well, while it does continue with this as a backdrop, it doesn't go that deep. It ambles on in a semi-comical and farcical manner, meandering through the lives of a multitude of people. As you wind your way through the book, the images of life and the mundane aspects of what a certain character does all day- eating, squatting, squashing a bug- are so effusively and evocatively conveyed, you have a vibrant colorful image of the backdrop, scenery and day to day activities; however, when it comes to developing a character's innate personality, Kiran Desai seems to have trouble delving deep into that person's psyche. The characters are so flat and hollow that the one piddling love story was really unbelievable. I had no feelings whatsoever concerning the young girl and her love interest. It was one of the most empty and stale love stories I've ever read. I liken the flat character aspect to a movie with the most incredible scenery you could ever imagine, and then here comes, tromping across the screen, cardboard cutouts for people. There were moments of lucidity about the Indian and Nepali predicament and the plight of humanity, so, for speaking in generalities like this, she was great- she just couldn't transfer this insight to any depth of her characters.

Finally, 'The Inheritance of Loss' basically is plot-less; therefore, you should have no expectations of what the ending will be. About 2/3 of the way through the book, you realize that this book is just beautiful writing infused with some political musings, and other than that, there really is no purpose to it. Although readable, 'The Inheritance of Loss' can be daunting in its unconstrained descriptiveness and use of abstract words. It also is incomplete and doesn't end in any way you think it should...it just ends. If you like flowery language and imagery, you'll love it, but if you're looking for deep character development and a strong plot line with a wrapped-up ending, this isn't for you.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Loss of Purpose., 31 July 2007
By 
maya j (Quail Crossing) - See all my reviews
'The Inheritance of Loss' begins with a teenage girl, her grandfather, his dog, and a servant/cook, and the lush descriptions of their location in India create a vivid picture of not only where they live but also how they live. After the initial introduction of characters, there is an incident that leads the reader to believe this book will be more of a political novel with musings about the Kashmiri and Nepali uprisings during the '80s. Well, while it does continue with this as a backdrop, it doesn't go that deep. It ambles on in a semi-comical and farcical manner, meandering through the lives of a multitude of people. As you wind your way through the book, the images of life and the mundane aspects of what a certain character does all day- eating, squatting, squashing a bug- are so effusively and evocatively conveyed, you have a vibrant colorful image of the backdrop, scenery and day to day activities; however, when it comes to developing a character's innate personality, Kiran Desai seems to have trouble delving deep into that person's psyche. The characters are so flat and hollow that the one piddling love story was really unbelievable. I had no feelings whatsoever concerning the young girl and her love interest. It was one of the most empty and stale love stories I've ever read. I liken the flat character aspect to a movie with the most incredible scenery you could ever imagine, and then here comes, tromping across the screen, cardboard cutouts for people. There were moments of lucidity about the Indian and Nepali predicament and the plight of humanity, so, for speaking in generalities like this, she was great- she just couldn't transfer this insight to any depth of her characters.

Finally, 'The Inheritance of Loss' basically is plot-less; therefore, you should have no expectations of what the ending will be. About 2/3 of the way through the book, you realize that this book is just beautiful writing infused with some political musings, and other than that, there really is no purpose to it. Although readable, 'The Inheritance of Loss' can be daunting in its unconstrained descriptiveness and use of abstract words. It also is incomplete and doesn't end in any way you think it should...it just ends. If you like flowery language and imagery, you'll love it, but if you're looking for deep character development and a strong plot line with a wrapped-up ending, this isn't for you.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow to the point of turgid, 27 Mar 2007
By 
I was disappointed in this novel, which describes an isolated household living in the Himalayas, suffused with loneliness. Desai is better on landscape than character; she captures both the Himalayas and New York well. However, she does not manage to sketch the political landscape with the same lightness and surety of touch; the points Desai wants to make drive the story rather than letting the characters drive it for themselves.

That said, the sense of fear and oppression is caught reasonably well, although not a particularly enjoyable read. The New York section is by far the most successful part of the book.
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