The Inheritance of Loss


Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss” is an interesting work clearly showing the author’s flair for writing. She describes Indian and American stereotypes perfectly and with great detail too. She concerns the characters in her novel with troubling events that take place in the lush green nature-blessed Kalimpong along the Teesta River in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. As the plot progresses, Kalimpong transforms from being a beautiful nature-lover’s haven to a ghost town that is destroyed due to riots instigated by the extremist GNLF fighting for Gorkhaland. She contrasts the life in the Himalayan town of Kalimpong and bustling New York city, which may have had an influence on Desai.

Desai is a good storyteller who mesmerizes the reader with verses that show her clerisy and mastery of English but the plot is not compelling enough to keep the reader turn pages- and I expect this to be a characteristic of the Booker Prize winning works. There are some funny situations and others that are too hard to imagine- Desai turns the plot using its eccentric characters as weapons, into a moody concoction that doesn’t end on a happy note as you may want it to. It nevertheless shows the reality of curfew situations in India and trauma that citizens face due to unpleasant violence.

What’s most funny about the novel is the way in which the characters are stubborn about their feelings despite the level of education that they have been blessed to have at Oxford or Cambridge- this makes me wonder if people become narrow-minded after going to reputed International schools.

Nothing can be called atypical of behavior of people in the country that Desai writes about. Some of the situations that one can connect to are the US visa process, book-loving nature of the characters (which I am sure, Desai also is) and being a gourmet of good food. Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things” has a scene in which a character is involved in a communist march. Desai’s novel also has a similar scene with the character Gyan- should we think of this as Roy’s influence on Desai or plagiarism of ideas or that Indian political situations in any state are so banal that authors are forced to think the same way when it comes to politics affecting the general public?

Read the book to learn about the beautiful Himalayan region of Darjeeling, its residents and life of illegal immigrants in New York City.

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