Top positive review
One of the best books I've read for a long time
6 February 2019
This is a wonderful book, although it demands investment from the reader – if you like to ‘skim-read’ this is probably not for you. It is also much larger (in all senses) than The God of Small Things, and certainly more confronting – this is modern-day India, warts and all. It is maybe best described as a recent (post-1984) history of India as recounted by a number of inter-connected narrators with a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from trans-gender to security and while Roy describes it as ‘fictionalised’ anyone with an interest in India will not find it difficult to recognise many of the politicians and events involved.
Roy is an exceptional writer with a great and unflinching eye for detail – often this is hilarious but occasionally horrific, particularly when she describes the insurgency in Kashmir and its consequences for ordinary people. Her sympathies are clear – the poor, the marginalised – but she rarely resorts to political polemic and her weapon of choice is the stiletto rather than the bludgeon. If you are familiar with India you will (like me) love this book, and if not this is a great introduction to a country where contradictions are the norm rather than the exception, where appalling squalor and incredible wealth live in the same street and where neighbours will celebrate together on one day and turn on each other savagely the next. It’s one of those rare books that I’ll read again, and I suspect that I’ll enjoy it even more the second time round.