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The Inheritance of Loss (2005)

by Kiran Desai

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,3651771,180 (3.41)1 / 541
An embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace lives in a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge's cook watches over Sai distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another.… (more)
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» See also 541 mentions

English (169)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (176)
Showing 1-5 of 169 (next | show all)
A complicated exploration of colonialism from the view of Indians living near the Nepal border, and their relatives in England and the United States. It traces how political turmoil affects the interconnected web of people. It is a bleak book, but well worth the read. ( )
  Aldon.Hynes | Sep 14, 2021 |
Beautifully written but otherwise very flavorless story. There is actually two stories set in present, one of an Indian orphan Sai who falls in love with her math tutor and another one of Biju who emigrates to the USA, and one set in history (the story of the judge). Around the stories is the 1980s Gurkha revolution, but not knowing Indian history, it is not easy to grasp from the book what is going on, what is their motivation and historical/cultural/sociological situation. None of the characters were truly interesting as their stories consisted of only scattered events and it was difficult to relate to their struggles and dreams. The story of Biju's failed emigration to the States had some potential and succeeded in giving perspective to emigrants life. However, it also was very flat and Biju was left as a distant and naive character (well, aren't we all naive to some extent...) ( )
  Lady_Lazarus | Jul 4, 2021 |
the writing here is too exceptional for me to rate this any lower, but as a novel unfortunately i found this lacking. i wanted more out of each of the characters and each of their stories. i didn't like any of the characters, but that's ok. i wanted more depth from all of them, though. we got little peeks into their backstories and into who they are, but it just wasn't enough to hold the book together for me. there's so much going on - immigration, racism, colonialism, wealth gaps - and none of it is given enough exploration.

but oh my goodness the writing is exquisite.

"...it was just fate in the way fate has of providing the destitute with a greater quota of accidents for which nobody can be blamed."

"...she had not estimated the imbalance between the finality of good-bye and the briefness of the last moment." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Apr 20, 2021 |
I'm reading all the winners of the Booker Prize since its inception. This was #41 of 53. Follow me at www.methodtohermadness.com.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai is a beautifully written novel about people of India: those who are born there, those who live there, those who leave and those who want to leave. One of the central characters, Sai, has been raised in India, but in a Western convent. When she goes to live with her grandfather, who was trained in England, then returned to India as a judge, he finds they have much in common – just not their nationality. Another main character, Biju, has left India to pursue the American dream, which turns out to be sleeping on a table in the cheap restaurant where he works and getting no medical treatment for an on-the-job injury. Others are immigrants who are kicked out when the locals try to create an independent state. It seems the population is in a frustrated flux, with people who want to go unable to leave, and those who want to stay being evicted.

I found this novel too sprawling and slow, like Midnight’s Children, which I also didn’t enjoy very much. And yet, despite the long unfurling of the plot, I still did not feel that I got to know the peripheral characters well – I could still barely tell them apart by the end. The “Indian” novels I’ve enjoyed most so far in this project have been by Englishmen: The Siege of Krishnapur and Staying On. I also loved The God of Small Things, which has a tighter, more Western-style plot-with-a-twist, and was a bestseller here in the U.S. So maybe my novel sensibilities are just very Western. I am still glad that this project is pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to read novels I wouldn’t otherwise. ( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
I listened to this audio book because I work with so many Indians in my line of work that I had wanted to read more Indian literature to get a greater cultural understanding of my fellow workers. From that perspective the biggest thing I gained here was learning that at least part of the reason that the Indian caste system continues to this day is a feeling that the caste one is born into is part of their just rewards for actions in a previous life. So if you are born to a lower caste it may because you were a real asshole in your previous life, so it is correct to treat them lower.

I give this book only 2.5 stars primarily because from an audio perspective it was very difficult to follow. The story is told from at least 4 different 1st person perspectives (which isn't normally a problem lots of my Star Trek books do that) but on the audiobook it isn't always clear when the transitions occur, especially as it doesn't always change just at the Chapter break. I suspect that it is easier to follow in the dead tree form, like a double line break or something.

This is basically the life story of an orphan we know mostly as "the judge" his rise from poverty to study to become a member of the ICS when Britain was Indianizing their regime. His daughter, her math tutuor, their cook, and the cook's son. Immigration back and forth to India, the judge to England for education, the cook's son to the US to try to make ends meet. The math tutor and the daughter fall in love, only for the tutor to turn on her because of political upheaval and his acceptance of a new nationalism. It bounces back and forth from India to the EU to the US. It bounces around time lines until it finally all falls into place. If that sounds interesting to you I recommend reading it rather than listening to it. ( )
  fulner | Dec 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 169 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kiran Desaiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lai, Chin-YeeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simhan, MeeraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Boast of Quietness

Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigious than meteors.
The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.
Sure of my life and my death, I observe the ambitious and would like to understand them.
Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.
Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.
They speak of humanity.
My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of the same poverty.
They speak of homeland.
My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old sword, the willow grove's visible prayer as evening falls.
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous multitude.
They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn't expect to arrive.

-Jorge Luis Borges
To my mother with so much love
First words
All day, the colours had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths.
An accident, they said, and there was nobody to blame - it was just fate in the way fate has of providing the destitute with a greater quota of accidents for which nobody can be blamed.
Just ordinary humans in ordinary opaque boiled-egg light, without grace, without revelation, composite of contradictions, easy principles, arguing about what they half believed in or even what they didn't believe in at all, desiring comfort as much as raw austerity, authenticity as much as playacting, desiring coziness of family as much as to abandon it forever.
...and he felt a flash of jealousy as do friends when they lose another to love, especially those who have understood that friendship is enough, steadier, healthier, easier on the heart. Something that always added and never took away. (Ch 39)
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Wikipedia in English (4)

An embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace lives in a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge's cook watches over Sai distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another.

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Average: (3.41)
0.5 6
1 46
1.5 11
2 153
2.5 52
3 402
3.5 125
4 420
4.5 51
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141027282, 0141399368


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