Perhaps the thing that fascinated me most about this book was that it was written the way life is experienced. Too often in novels – especially those dealing with particular historical situations – the author tries to tell too much about how the characters feel and think, tries to sculpt the characters in stone with immutable characteristics and clean narratives. Real life is much more messy. Often, we do not quite know what we think or feel or why and might change from day to day. In this book, two memorable examples of this lack of clarity are the sensation of falling in love and the political leanings of the frustrated youth. The story of the emigrant son is also profound as we are exposed to his sense of being unpinned. The messiness of the characters’ emotions feels real – we drift through life, hardly knowing what we feel or why we act, and it is through society with others that we attempt to give it meaning, interpret and assume. This intuitive realness and the beauty of the prose are enchanting, though the resulting novel is fairly different from what one expects a novel to provide. The characters are not carefully sculpted, as character itself is fluid. The stories are halting and incomplete, as life often feels. Even where the narrative is strung through the book – as in the story of the Judge’s life – there is no explanation in it. Why his cruelty, why his disdain? It seems, always, of the moment, and the character does not much evolve, does not learn, does not regret in the way we would want. Yet all the love he is capable of is focused on his dog, Mutt. As cruel as he is, he is pitiable. The lack of carefully explicated character and plot is effective – it supports the themes of unmoored identities and post-colonial struggles while creating a world that feels a little too real.
The Inheritance of Loss is a novel set in the Darjeeling area of India in the 1980s, as the lives of the inhabitants of a small town are affected by the Gorkhaland uprising. The story shows the post-colonial upheaval, the effect of colonialism on identity and culture, and offers up a society of uncertain relationships. The story is fascinating, sad, and frustrating – there are no easy answers, if there are answers at all. Yet the beauty of the prose and the now-ness of the experiences create something vivid and breathtaking. It is simply so very human, as beautiful and horrific as that can be.
This one is definitely worth a read, though it takes some dedication. The prose is lovely but intense – it deserves true attention and appreciation, as does the story with its array of characters and stunning detail. It is not a book to fly through, but one to savor.