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Half a Life by V.S. Naipaul

Half a Life (original 2001; edition 2001)

by V.S. Naipaul

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1,051148,009 (3.11)22
Title:Half a Life
Authors:V.S. Naipaul
Info:Picador (2001), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Half a Life by V. S. Naipaul (2001)



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Young Willie Chandran asks his father to explain why he has been given the middle name of Somerset, as Willie is being teased about it at school . The father tells the boy of the tiny acts of rebelliousness that led to meeting a famous English author, but also to the unwanted and unsuitable marriage between his parents. Learning of his father's feelings towards his beloved mother, Willie begins to hate his father and carries that hatred into adulthood, with his focus in life being to escape from his family and India's caste system. His father's connections lead to an Oxford scholarship and autonomy for the first time, with Willie making choices about his future and dealing with social relationships he really doesn't understand. 4.2 stars ( )
  mstrust | Nov 23, 2015 |
  tejaswini00111 | Jun 18, 2014 |
wonderful writing, one can immediately see why this author is so highly rated ( )
  NaggedMan | Jul 16, 2013 |
Sometimes I find it so hard to see past the characters to the analogy. I don't like Willie. I don't like his father. Story of Ana, please, or story of June or of Willie's mother or of Sarojini. Perhaps, as the Nobel comittee said, he can "compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories" but they are still the histories of men.

Perhaps it's my error, expecting to like the characters I read about?

Cruelly funny at times, and Naipul is a fabulous writer so it's delicious to read.
( )
  veracite | Apr 7, 2013 |
My first incursion into Naipaul's work, I thoroughly enjoyed this gentle, compelling insight into a kind of life and lifestyle that is remote from my personal experience. ( )
  NaggedMan | Dec 15, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
''Half a Life,'' the fierce new novel by V. S. Naipaul, the new Nobel laureate, is one of those rare books that stands as both a small masterpiece in its own right and as a potent distillation of the author's work to date, a book that recapitulates all his themes of exile, postcolonial confusion, third world angst, and filial love and rebellion while recounting with uncommon elegance and acerbity the story of the coming of age of its hero, Willie Chandran.
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Willie Chandran asked her father one day, "Why is my middle name Somerset?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 037570728X, Paperback)

Half a Life finds the veteran Booker and Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul on familiar territory, blending autobiography and fiction in an exploration of the "half lives" of individuals brought up in the English colonies and educated in metropolitan cities.

Naipaul's protagonist is Willie Somerset Chandran, named after Somerset Maugham's encounter with Willie's father in the 1930s while traveling "to get material for a novel about spirituality." Willie travels to England for his education, where he becomes "part of the special, passing bohemian-immigrant life of London of the late 1950s." Willie soon realizes that his colonial background allows him to write short stories for well-meaning white liberals, and he begins "to understand that he was free to present himself as he wished" and that he could "remake himself and his past" through his writing. The effect is suffocating rather than liberating, and he marries a vaguely sketched "girl or young woman from an African country," who has read his one published book. Willie begins another "half life" in colonial Mozambique, where he soon tires of the domestic and sexual tedium of plantation life and flees to Germany, mournfully reflecting that "I have been hiding for too long."

This is classic Naipaul, with its effortless dissection of the damaging personal consequences of post-war decolonization, but its virtue seems its primary vice, as the novel feels like a conflation of several earlier Naipaul books, including The Mimic Men and the brilliant A Bend in the River. Consequently, some readers may well find that Half a Life reads more like half a novel. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Half a Life is the story of Willie Chandran, whose father, heeding the call of Mahatma Gandhi, turned his back on his brahmin heritage and married a woman of low caste - a disastrous union he would live to regret, as he would the children that issued from it. When Willie reaches manhood, his flight from the travails of his mixed birth takes him from India to London, where, in the shabby haunts of immigrants and literary bohemians of the 1950s, he contrives a new identity. This is what happens as he tries to defeat self-doubt in sexual adventures and in the struggle to become a writer - strivings that bring him to the brink of exhaustion, from which he is rescued, to his amazement, only by the love of a good woman. And this is what happens when he returns with her - carried along, really - to her home in Africa, to live, until the last doomed days of colonialism, yet another life not his own."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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