Luckily , thanks to my memory ( lack of it , infact) I had totally forgot all through my reading that the book comes with a baggage of Booker price reputation . Surprisingly each time I took the book , I have not even noted the lines in the front cover mentioning it. So my review comes without the reputation to influence me ! Blessing in disguise .
The field of the story is set in the beautiful hill station of Kalimpong , situated in the district of picturesque Darjeeling . The time mid 1980’s when the Ghurka land agitation tempers. The pages of the novel starts with Sai , a 16 year old orphaned girl who lives with her embittered , steel hearted grandfather who lives a secluded life sans all pleasant emotions except for his love for Mutt – the Dog. Since retirement , the judge has been living his lonely life ( not by compulsion but by choice) in the old spacious cottage with an old cook , till Sai lands up there. Slowly , we are introduced to various other characters of the small town – Uncle Potty , Father Booty , Lola , Noni etc. Then there is Biju , the cook’s son who is an illegal immigrant two ocean’s away in the land of America , struggling out his life there , humiliated , deprived but burdened by his father’s love , dream and expectations back home. Gyan , the tutor of Sai , who also teaches Sai , the first lesson of infatuation and love in her heart.
The novel swings between the thoughts of Sai , Judge and Biju. It takes back to the past of Judge , It shows the life through the eyes of Sai. It speaks the anguish , pain , humiliation , struggle from the heart of Biju. The mid 1980’s militancy shows up shattering the peace , beauty and the normalcy of the land and the people’s life. Everyone’s life torn apart .. The conflict in the land and minds of people stirred by the consequence of colonialism , race , nationalism and raw human love , greed , ego and false pride.
Kiran Desai has managed wonderfully in bringing the soul of the hill station , the small detailing adds up beautifully to take us into Kalimpong . This is the first V sign for an author – the art to take the readers effortlessly into the world described in words.
Though set in mid 1980’s the essence holds true even in 2009 when we witness struggle of communities , terrorism finding opportunities in the field sowed by economic disparity , cultural differences , feeling of being neglected , government apathy and also human greed.
The only let down I felt in the novel was in the concluding parts , where I felt the author gone bit hasty. Well , its how I felt . I also could feel the change in India since 1980’s and now but also how some changes have only been shifted and not entirely got away with.
As the book concludes “ all you needed to do was to reach out and pluck it” Well , you can sure pluck the book out of shelves and have a good read !