Slumdog Millionaire Paperback – 18 Nov 2008
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The book is a huge swipe at all the myriad problems that beset India, disease, grinding poverty, chronic lack of access to basic education and yet another big handful of poverty for luck. Throw in the caste system, inbred attitudes and you see they have a long way to go.
I realise I'm not making it sound much fun but I promise you this is one of the very best, most moving, entertaining, charming books you will ever read.
You will root for a poor orphan boy Ram Mohammad Thomas as he passes through his various incarnations from quasi alter-boy in the Catholic Church to quiz show winner. All along the route he is beset by those who seem to do their level best to destroy his chance in life, from the bad priest at the start to bandits encountered on a train.
At every turn Thomas could end up dead, imprisoned or begging on the streets. Like the teeming hoards that surround him daily, all clamouring for a toe-hold on life before something washes them downstream with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam never to surface again.
His dearest friend Salim is a sometime companion but they lose touch at points only to meet up at a later date. Always satisfying when that happens as I am a sucker for a good/happy ending on the grounds that there is more than enough misery in life without reading about it. This is not a misery memoir although it does have scenes of huge sadness which may well move you to tears. They certainly made me cry but the capacity of humans to hurt each other in ghastly ways never ceases to astound and dismay me in equal measure. Why people want to hurt another living thing is beyond my comprehension. I have never wanted to deliberately hurt anything with a pulse, it just sits wrong.
Remember the old adage about the good we do coming back to us? In this novel that has knobs on as the good deeds this boy has done on his way end up saving his life and his sanity His inherent good sense and sense of fair play always stand him in good stead and help him make the right choice when it is crucial. Even with the man who knows everything the terrible Colonel Taylor who is a actually spying on the entire household and probably clinically bonkers. Even with him our hero maintains his cool demeanour and gets paid when they disappear back home to Oz.
This is such a wonderful novel I would compare it to Gone With The Wind in the breadth and sweep of the way it deals with a difficult subject.
I had no idea this was a debut novel, incredible! Bravo............. it takes my breath away, I shall read this again rather like another old favourite To Kill A Mockingbird, it is a tale to sit and savour over and over, because there is so much to take in you can't hope to do it first time round.
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.