This is the first Narayan novel I have read and I found his storytelling impressive. His characters come right off the page - and I loved the sights, sounds and smells of the Southern India he depicts.
The set-up for this tale is engaging: a man leaves prison, hoping to re-integrate with society unnoticed...but ends up being mistaken for a holy man and becomes the centre of undesired attention. I enjoyed the comment made about the madness of herd mentality (there's a wonderful scene at the end where the people are scrambling to find spare water so that Raju can stand knee-deep in a river - in order to pray for rain to end a drought).
I agree with a previous review that perhaps too much time was spent on the Raju/Rosie romance...they are such strong characters, however, that the narrative manages to sustain their story arc without too much strain. What I admired most, I think, was the spiritual side to the story - not just the spiritual dedication of the villagers but aso the spiritual journey forced upon Raju. In the end, you get the sense that he almost believes in something for the first time in his life.
What I was hoping for, though, was a twist in the tale. I thought that Raju was going to be humbled by the gods for impersonating a saint...or that too much rain would come and flood away his temple. This didn't happen - and I suppose it shows restraint on Narayan's part. But I think the novel could have been even better with such a finishing flourish.
R K Naryan was a rare Gem in the literary world. All his books are excellent and must read for anybody who can read English.
Its specially nice for people who would like to know what Rural India was.. The relationships, the environment, the society - each and every aspect is explained in such an amazing and interesting way that you feel you are there when things are happening - you are transformed to places and situation's.
Even if you are not interested in India, still its a great read. The way Narayan handles the language is must read to believe. You would have never imagined that simple stories and sitatuation's can be explained so beautifully.
Once you start reading the book you cannot stop infact you will end up reading the books again and again as i do ( which i do not do with any other books )
Its highly recommended to buy all the Novels / Books of R K Narayan
I have to disagree with the other reviews who all seem to acclaim this as the best book ever.
The book has some amazing good points.
It has a brilliant description of life in rural India when it narrates Raju's childhood.
It has a endearing central character who you will understand and love.
The moral seems to be simple yet strong.
However the book gets a little boring when describing the relationship between Rosie and Raju. I found my self skipping whole pages in which the author spent forever recounting their encounters whilst putting the story on hold. Save for this annoying feature, the book was a great read and i would recommend it to anyone.
Set in southern India, Narayan gives us a subtle kind of Hindu morality tale about a young man, Raju, who always makes the most of whatever situation he finds himself in, not always doing the right thing. When he falls for a client's wife (he's a tourist guide at this point, as well as a shopkeeper) he lets temptation and fate take over his life, ruins a good business and ends up in jail.
But prison isn't so bad and once again he makes the most of it, and when he comes out he finds his next opportunity when he's mistaken for a swami, a kind of spiritual guru. He goes along with this new role, using hits wits and his education to fool the masses with wise words, living in an old temple and eating the food offered by his growing band of disciples. The only trouble is, when he's had enough of this lifestyle he finds he can't escape from it and he ends up getting more than he bargained for.
Told in alternating chapters of first- and third-person narratives that correspond to the past and the present, the novel is well written with a gentle humour that makes it an easy and enjoyable read, but also conveying a deeper message about the perils of greed and materialism.
What a wonderful book! A great story, both in it's spirituality and it's simplicity. It is so revealing of human nature, and shows the great influence of self-image and the view that others hold of us. You must read this book! I have forced it upon nearly everyone I know, and those that read it were by no means disappointed.
I have red almost all of his books and they are all very good. I can recommend his work to everyone who loves tales and stories. The decorum is truly delightful; most stories are situated in South India.