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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
Review: The Inheritance of Loss
By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News website

The book cover of The Inheritance of Loss
The story is set in the Indian Himalayas
The Inheritance of Loss is Kiran Desai's second novel. The story is set in the mid-1980s in a Himalayan town in India by the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga and also New York.

Desai touches upon many different issues throughout the book such as, globalisation, multiculturalism, inequality and the different forms of love.

It took her seven years to complete and Desai used her own experiences of being an Indian living in the United States to help write the novel.

The action focuses on the lives of Jemubhai Popatlal, a retired Cambridge-educated judge living in Kalimpong, his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, who moves to live with him and his cook.

When a Nepalese insurgency disturbs the region, Jemubhai becomes vulnerable because of his hunting rifles.

The revolution also threatens the blossoming relationship between 16-year-old Sai and her Nepalese tutor, Gyan.

Fast pace

The characters' lives are intertwined with the story of the cook's son, Biju, who experiences the negative aspects of living as an illegal alien in New York.

From the start it is hard to engage with the characters as Desai chooses not to "formally" introduce them to the reader.

She also constantly introduces minor characters with whom the reader may struggle to engage.

The pace is fairly fast and Desai draws on the different characters' stories, sometimes going back in time and then bringing the reader back to the present day of the book.

It demands the reader's full attention as it can be easy to lose details of the plot.


There is no denying the book is beautifully written.

Every word has been cleverly selected giving the text an overall thoughtful and thorough description.

However it focuses so heavily on description that the plot in some places feels as if it has been completely overlooked.

There are lines though that are quite thought provoking, often included towards the end of a chapter, allowing the reader to pause and think about the statement before continuing.

"She sometimes thought herself pretty, but as she began to make a proper investigation, she found it was a changeable thing, beauty."

Some of the statements are so clever and deep, one may feel it necessary to jot them down and re-visit.

"Anyway, he said to himself, money wasn't everything. There was that simple happiness of looking after someone and having someone look after you."

It almost feels like Desai is trying to convey a message to the reader about the importance of things in life which perhaps she sees are often overlooked.

"Time should move. Don't go for a life where time doesn't pass."


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