This book has two stories running in parallel about people on opposite sides of the world: Biju, the only son of an Indian cook, who left India for America in search of a better life (whether the decision to leave was his or his fathers is open to debate!). Whilst ‘Cook’ boasts to his Indian friends and acquaintances about his sons life in America the fathers ideal of the American Dream couldn’t be further from Biju’s experience.
Cook works for the judge and his granddaughter Sai in the mountains of the Himalayas. There is a strong sense of faded wealth and glamour about the life the Judge lives which is brought shamefully (for the Judge and Sai) to the surface with the political turmoil which bubbles up and over during the story.
I really enjoyed Desai’s way of writing, it felt like reading poetry in lots of parts and I found countless pieces of prose I wanted to highlight to include here as a favourite quote for a variety of reasons – from funny to insightful.
On the funny side, a sentiment I whole heartedly agree with from the judge as a young man “No fruit dies so vile and offensive a death as a banana”
On the insightful side, mainly from Sai…
“Could fulfilment ever be felt as deeply as loss? … Love must surely reside in the gap between desire and fulfilment”
“The present changed the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind”
“Maybe everyone felt this way at somepoint when one recognised there was a depth to one’s life and emotions beyond one’s significance”
“The most ordinary swept up in extraordinary hatred, because extraordinary hated was, after all, a commonplace”
I feel as though I could write reams about this book (don’t worry I won’t write much more!). It touches on a huge range of topics love and loss,, family, friendship, feelings of belonging and not belonging as well as a tumultuous political and social environment.
Again thai is another book I probably wouldn’t have picked up had it not been for this challenge so I’m glad that I’m broadening my reading in doing it