trying to see the world with my ears
...you might like this bizarre tale of family, community, hierarchy, missionaries, twins separated at birth, and transexual serial murder in India. Unlike Q+A's Vikras Swarup, Irving isn't Indian, but he avoids cultural appropriation (I think--I'm not Indian) by stating upfront in the intro that he doesn't know India well, thanking a host of South East Asian artists for their help, and creating an ex-pat main character who is alientated from his birth country but not assimilated into the West.
I found the novel humourous and tremendously entertaining, but it's not for everyone: Know that there are multiple quirkly characters weaving through several intersecting storylines highly dependent upon coincidence, like a modern day tale from Trollope or Dickens with a twist of PG Wodehouse's mania, all held together by excellent narration.
Irving asks, in a postcolonial global village, "where are you from?" rather than the usual, "who are you?", and the only viable attitude he offers to complexities of human nature is that of a child's wonderment at a circus, despite the probability that the acts are based on cruelty to participants. The opposite of such wonder is fundamentalism. Many characters are shackled by fate, but a few escape predictable ends through human imagination or altruism.
Irving presents an unflattering but loving portrait of Bombay/Mumbai in the late 80s, before the terrorist bombings of 1993 and economic boom of 2000s. I'm not sure how an inhabitant would respond to the outsider's view. Also I'm not sure how a transexual might react to some of the characters. Some also might be put off by the novel's use of "cripple"/"crippled" to describe what we refer to now as disability, but all the charaters are "crippled," if not physically than emotionally or socially.
James from Vancouver describes this series so well - I want just to add that the prose as an audiobook becomes music and underline the subtle humour in its unfolding. Simon Vance handles the words like a master musician. I so look forward to the remaining three "movements" because this series is new to me. If you like Brit lit, pass over Follett for Powell. I'm glad Follett wrote his "Giants" -- that's probrably why a publisher reproduced Powell for us now. Long live audiobooks for making accessible novels some of us would never otherwise experience.
This is a feel good listen with dharma (though the Buddhist sect depicted is fictional). The novel is unique and not at all saccharine, though it fits in the "happily ever after without angst" category. It's such an easy read, yet this novel has substance and poetry! I'm tempted to call it Paulo Coelo light, but I don't mean that as negative.
The publisher's label of "fairy tale" and "fable" may mislead fantasy fans. While it can be heard as a fable about finding oneself, it's a storyline/fictional memoir from everyday life with little of the fantastic except a belief in a spiritual world - one that is shared by many faiths.
I listen to a lot of novels, and this one landed just as I needed something fresh - It really gave my spirit a lift. I've listened to many Christian and Buddhist books about becoming less judgemental-- this novel worked better than nonfiction at getting me there. I haven't enjoyed a listen so much since many, many books ago.
As an Audible Editor I listen for a living! British classics, YA novels, speculative fiction, and anything quirky, fascinating, or heart-wrenching.
I can’t get this book out of my head, and it’s not because I L-O-V-E-D it. I thought it was impressive and momentous, but I can’t say I loved it. It was too horrific to love.
Some background: this is the story of a woman who survived a Titanic-like event by spending 21 days in an overcrowded lifeboat. It’s clear from the beginning that not everyone makes it, but that the heroine does because as the book opens she’s standing trial for murder for events that happened on the lifeboat. These aren’t spoilers – this is simply premise. So you begin the book with a certain set of facts and you work your way through, trying to make sense of the experience along with the characters.
This is where Charlotte Rogan is the cleverest. As you realize that not everyone is going to survive, you start to detach yourself from the characters. You build up a wall to protect yourself from the feeling of devastation when someone goes. You become an impassioned observer and you allow the edges of right and wrong to blur. In other words – you do exactly what the heroine does, and you start to understand her perspective.
After finishing I also realized – and this is what has been sticking with me the last few days – that this is a feminist work in disguise. Grace, the protagonist, has made her way successfully through life and beaten the odds that were pitched against her, in large part because she plays the game in a man’s world, without questioning it. You start to understand – but only near the end of this book – that gender politics are central to the plot, and the way this revelation unfolds is remarkably subtle and powerful.