Last week I finished two novels that were well written but that I couldn't really get into. Maybe you would like them more than I did. :)
10. Shalimar the Clown by Salman RushdieShalimar the Clown
is a big, international, multigenerational novel that starts out in Los Angeles in the 1990s with the assassination of the former US ambassador to India by a Kashmiri Muslim called Shalimar the clown. It goes back through a lot of history and family sagas through California, India, France, and England. I really liked the connections he made between these places at different times in history, particularly with the history of tense but usually peaceful coexistence of different cultures and religions, both between Jews and Christians and between French- and German-speakers in Strasbourg before WWII and between Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir. The plot is complex and the prose is very…let's say skillful
, but I always felt the narrator was a bit distant from the characters, more interested in being clever than in helping me connect with them. So in spite of all the loves and betrayals and horrible things happening to these characters I never cared all that much about them. ( The audiobook was read by Aasif Mandvi. )
11. Blind Faith by Sagarika Ghose
I hadn't heard of this book or author before I ran across it in the bookstore a couple months ago, but the cover looked interesting and I liked the first sentence, so I decided to give it a try. The first sentence is, "When the plane from Delhi to Goa exploded in mid-air and plummeted into the Arabian Sea, the sky wavered momentarily like a computer screen ribbed by static." Isn't that lovely? I really like Ghose's style, the way sentences would go in unexpected directions like that, and I liked knowing right away that this was set in contemporary India.
I also liked that the two main characters are women: there's Mia, a British journalist of Indian heritage, and Indi, an Indian civil servant who lives in Goa and is passionate about her career and refuses to give it up despite her progressive blindness. However I eventually started to get bored with the plot about Mia feeling torn between the two men in her life. She's married Indi's son Vik, a successful businessman, and moves to Delhi to be with him, but she also feels attracted to this mysterious religious fanatic named Karna who wants women to return to their traditional roles. And it's, you know, supposed to be about her choosing between these two men but also choosing between different ideas of what India is and what she's
supposed to be, which I guess is interesting but it felt to me like it was done in a heavy-handed and repetitive way, so I was tired of the novel by the time I got through it, even though it wasn't all that long (about 270 pages) and the plot did eventually get more interesting.
The copy I have came with an interview with the author at the end and a list of ten works of Indian literature that she recommends. I thought I'd copy it here since I know a lot of us are always looking for more suggested reading. ( Sagarika Ghose recommends )