Review: The Siege of Krishnapur – J.G. Farrell

Something that I have noticed about the winners of the booker prize so far (the ones I have read) is that lots of them are set in or about colonial India and The Siege of Krishnapur is no different.

I had forgotten that I’d read Farrell’s novel ‘Troubles’ the 1970 ‘lost’ booker prize winner at the start of last summer and really enjoyed it, so I didn’t come to the book with any specific expectations – just a strong hope it would be of more interest to me than Wolf Hall

This book is written in a dry and serious tone but comes across in a comedic way. It tells the story of the community of Krishnapur (somewhere according to google is fictional), initially in all its colonial, highly stratified, glory where the biggest problem appears to be the overly harsh critiques at the poetry society readings.

However things quickly deteriorate when they come under attack from the local sepoys (an Indian soldier). Unprepared and inexperience, the British show themselves to be inept. Something which is epitomised by Fleury, a young man caught up in the siege by accident whilst visiting India, who in the midst of war finds his mind wandering elsewhere. Whilst being trained to shoot Fleury was “trying to look politely interested, and was vaguely trying out various poses in his mind for daguerreotypes to appear in the Illustrated London News”. Although he works hard as a soldier throughout the siege he never quite escapes from his poetical perspective and distractions.

A quote I liked: 

“The advance of science is not, the Magistrate knew, like a man crossing a river from one stepping-stone to another. It is much more like someone trying to grope his way forward through a London fog. Just occasionally, in a slight lifting of the fog, you can glimpse the truth”.

Format read on: Kindle

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