22 March 2012

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai


Thoughts and Reflections
This book had been on my to read list for some time and I had had a number of recommendations to read it. I was excited to finally take the opportunity to dive into it and see what all the fuss was about! The book took me a little while to get into, however, once I was immersed in the themes, characters, and plots, I found the book exciting and thought provoking. The book has a subtle way of talking about some pretty heavy issues, a feature that I found myself deeply enjoying.

The book discussed a number of deep divisions in this particular part of India and at this time. The divisions were ethnicity, territory, religion, and education to name a few. Different characters felt different divisions differently, whilst some of the divisions affected everyone in the region. One division that I at first found humerous, only later realised the significance of was one of a general preference for England or the USA and where an individual may have been educated or have connections to. In the book, Indian and Nepali nationalism are flared up. As a result, those who have ties to the colonial days or maintained connections to England, were, though once elevated, now scorned and then targeted. However, for some reason, America was still a respected aspiration, even an encouraged one.

The result of the divisions was the isolation and loneliness of a number of the book's characters. They no longer belonged in their homeland. This, in fact, was an issue felt by these characters before the flaring nationalism.The Judge, a central character, felt these divisions upon returning from England to India after the completion of his education. Ironically, he did not feel a sense of belonging or place in England and returned to India only to find out that he no longer felt he belonged in India. This was the divide between what the Judge determined to be culture and barbarianism. With the onset of the conflicts and nationalism, these divisions deepened and became more clear, serving to further isolate the once elevated.

Immigration and illegal immigration was also discussed in the novel. One of the characters, Biju, ventured to the USA and disappeared into the wide world of illegal immigrants. The novel discussed the working conditions and wages and general powerlessness and sense of empowerment felt by people in this situation. Biju struggled with overwhelming loneliness, in addition to working in terrible working conditions and ever eluding the authorities that threatened to deport him.Those he left behind in India longed to come to America as well. Biju, however, longed to return to India, his familiar homeland.

The first chapters of the book focus of the budding love of a young girl who happened to be English educated and her Nepali tutor. I was annoyed by the opening chapters and couldn't understand why this fluff has been recommended to me from so many different individuals. Only because of their recommendations did I press on. I came to enjoy the book very much. The plot does maintain a somewhat light air, but the impact is much deeper than it initially appears. Only after completing the book was I able to stop and think about it and realise that much more was going on than I had originally understood.

I would certainly recommend this book. It is a book that I would like to read again. As always, it seems, I have understood only the bare minimum of what the author was getting at. Another read at a later date will hopefully open the book up still more for me.

About the Author
Kiran Desai was born in New Delhi, India in 1971. When she was 14 years old, Kiran moved to England with her mother, living there for a year before moving to the USA, where she is currently a resident. She studied creative writing at Hollins University before going on to study at Columbia University. Her first book, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, was published in 1998. The Inheritance of Loss was published 2006, winning the Man Booker Prize.

Things I Liked About This Book
1. I liked the discussions about the divisions between Nepali and Indian people.
2. I enjoyed this discussion of class and the first years of India's independence from the UK.

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