47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Flat out fantastic!,
This review is from: Q and A (filmed as Slumdog Millionaire) (Hardcover)
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!