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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

This book was long listed for the Booker Prize last year, and it is an excellent example of the sort of book that makes the cut for that prestigious award.  It is beautifully written and vast in it's scope.  The reader ends the novel knowing much more than when they started.  The book makes you think.  It is not a very pleasant book to read, however. The lives of these people are miserable.  Which is appropriate because they are by and large miserable people.

The book centers on the time period of the Naxalite insurgency that began in 1967.  The rebellion has held a strong hold on the literature of West Bengal that was addressed specifically in Jhumpa Lahiri's book The Lowlands. The tragedy of state jackboots crushing idealistic students smitten with communism weighs heavily on the collective imagination. This dramatic chapter of India’s recent history has now been beaten to death in this novel, in similar fashion to the government's treatment of the rebels.  The story follows the downward spiral of the Gosh family as they lose face and financial standing with the changing times.  Which they adapt poorly to.  The book is beautifully written and if you are a fan of the Booker nominees, you will not be disappointed, though you may be depressed.

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