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Derivative and ultimately as confused as its protagonist
on 1 August 2007
The Impressionist is OK, but nothing more than that. It deals with issues of identity, but does not match Philip Roth's The Human Stain.
It is full of Indian colour, but cannot compare to "A Suitable Boy" for its veracity, although there is more sex (and less romance) in The Impressionist.
It has something to say about colonialism, but unfortunately deals so much in caricatures, with its sex-crazed, spendaholic Nawabs, ascetic Sabus, and drunken, repressed English Commissioners that you never quite believe any of it. If the writing had the verve and style of PG Wodehouse, or Evelyn Waugh, one might forgive Kunzru his eccentric panapoply of characters, but the funny bits are not that funny, and sentimental parts lack an emotional heart.
The writing is OK, but not much more. This was fine for a holiday read, but I would not recommend it.