National Book Critics Circle, Fiction, 2007
Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2007
At the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas lives an embittered old judge who wants nothing more than to retire in peace. But this is far from easy with the arrival of his orphaned granddaughter Sai, come to live with him and his chatty cook. Biju, the cook's son, is trying to make his way in the US, flitting between a succession of grubby kitchen jobs to stay one step ahead of the immigration services.Unbeknown to any of them, a Nepalese insurgency threatens Kalimpong, impacting Sai's blossoming romance, and causing the judge to revisit his past and his role in this grasping world of conflicting desires.
©2006 Kiran Desai; (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.
"Briskly paced and sumptuously written." (The New Yorker)
"Desai imaginatively dramatizes the wonders and tragedies of Himalayan life and, by extension, the fragility of peace and elusiveness of justice, albeit with her own powerful blend of tenderness and wit." (Booklist)
"In this alternately comical and contemplative novel, Desai deftly shuttles between first and third worlds, illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a 'better life', when one person's wealth means another's poverty." (Publishers Weekly)
I really wanted to like this book. However, I found the narration very tedious. The characters were not likeable or sympathetic and the author seems overly-concerned with describing bowel movements and other bodily functions. Just not for me.
Tell us about yourself!
Although admittedly the writing was well done, I have never read a book that could find so little good in the human race. This was a depressing view of India in a time of turmoil, but without the redeeming human spirit. I kept waiting and hoping some optimism would rise from the ashes of this missive, but it never came. Recommended by me? to no one.
A gorgeously written story, alternatively tragic and hilarious. The reader, Meera Simhan, is extraordinary -- she performs a range of accents and characters to perfection. A great pleasure to listen to.
I could not get through this story and wish I had the option to return.
In a text version, I could have imagined the accents that I knew as I read dialogue, and would have "silent-read" accents that I didn't. My own ignorance of specific accents would have been made irrelevant. In this audio version, the inappropriate accents for the characters were grating.
Descriptions of the travails of Biju, an illegal migrant worker in NewYork.
The performer Ms. Simhan is great in reproducing two of the needed accents: (1) the "convent-school" Indian English accent, and (2) the general expatriate "British"-ized Indian accent.Ms. Simhan is wildly inappropriate as she portrays other regional Indian accents. It seems quite inappropriate to use the educated and uneducated versions of the English accent as spoken by primary Tamil (bordering on Malayalam) speakers. When the dialogue is about Bengali-, Punjabi- and Hindi-speakers demonstrating petty regional arrogance and peeves, their regional accents for speaking English are appropriate for performance. For example in this story that happens with the Gorkha insurgency in the background, one of the characters peevishly complains about the insurgents insisting on the pronunciation "Gorkha" rather than "Gurkha". "Gurkha" is the word used by most non-Gorkha Indians, often pejoratively. The peevish statement needs to be pronounced with accuracy: to portray the mispronunciation in one regional Indian accent of another regional Indian word!There is some dialogue in Hindi - short sentences and exclamations. These are important in creating the atmosphere. Fragmentary Hindi is the Indian cosmopolitan official's partial condescension from English, never stooping to the local language. It is also the lingua franca of the non-English-fluent cosmopolitan Indian. The performer's Hindi pronunciations are either Tamil-Malayalam accented (that would be barely acceptable, if I imagined that the official was a transplant from the South) or sometimes just incorrect. The performer mispronounces Indian language words that are part of the narration (not the dialogue). I do not think that this is excusable. The Gorhka knife spelled "kukri" in English is better pronounced cook-ree and not cuck-ree.Some time ago I heard Rohinton Mistry's "Family Matters" performed by Martin Jarvis of Canada. I did not like it for the same reasons. I consoled myself that even in Canada, it may be difficult to get accent coaches. So that author could not perform a dialogue with Parsis and Marathis being dismissive of each other. I was hoping that Ms. Simhan, who is a person of Indian origin may have been able to draw on a deeper circle of Indian-origin acquaintances and get the many regional accents right. Not so. She only studied the accents of Tamil and/or Malayalam speakers.Never again. I will restrict my audible.com enjoyment to stories set in the US, Canada, Australia, and Britain. I will get audiobooks of stories set in India only if recorded by native Indian performers.
I will reserve judgment till I read the book in text.
I had to quit at the end of the first half. The story was well written, the narration was good, but there seemed to be a lack of movement in the plot and no indication of where the book was headed. That kept me listening far too long. I'll never get those hours back...
Did anyone else hear the narrator's lisp throughout the reading of this book? Her inability to pronounce the sound of
Meera Simhan's beautiful diction and versatile portrayal of all the characters left me feeling that I knew them.
This was a beautifully told story that gives the reader an intimate and detailed picture of life in India. Meera Simhan's reading was enchanting!
The author had a lot to say and she said it well, but found her too impressed with her own writing skills. A simpler turn of phrase would have contributed so much more to the book.
More attention might be given to choosing a narrator, this is paramount with audio books.
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