Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Booker-Winning Indian Novels

Let me begin by saying that I do not care if all the official pages on the interwebs categorize Salman Rushdie as British, I would formally like to claim his books as one hundred percent ‘Indian’, thank you VERY much.

Now that that’s taken care of, let’s talk about the four novels from India that have won the Booker Prize.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

With absolutely stunning prose, Desai’s novel explores tensions on the India-Nepal border, and follows the lives of Sai, her grandfather, (a retired judge whom she lives with) and Biju, their cook’s son who is trying to make a living as an illegal immigrant to the US. Read it for the characters’ dreams and loves, disappointments and losses.

Verdict: Buy

Read this, and then: Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Desai’s debut novel about a man who, tired of life’s trials, decides to live in a guava tree.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

If you loved Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, this book is a guaranteed win for you. I personally find the plot a little derivative in snatches, but the book is otherwise quite interesting in its commentary on class, written in the form of a letter which the protagonist writes, narrating the events that occur on his quest to become a successful businessman, starting as a driver to a rich family, and ending in criminal activity.

Verdict: Borrow

Try Last Man in Tower, a better paced offering by Adiga, “the story of a retired schoolteacher’s struggle for a slice of shining Mumbai real estate.”

Midnight's Children Rushdie coverMidnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
This is as gorgeous as it is frustrating. ‘Pastiche’ is all very well as a charming literary technique, but when Rushdie does it, you feel like the book is tearing you into a hundred different directions. The novel is a magic realist take on India’s independence from British rule, following Saleem Sinai, a boy born the very minute India became a free nation.

Verdict: If you’ve made up your mind to read it, buy, because honestly, it takes a while to get into it. Also, buy only once you’ve been initiated to Rushdie via his other non-threatening books.

The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Verdict: Buy

I am aware I rated this book before a review, but seriously, you need to read it! Do you love everything Adichie writes? Go for it!
Roy writes a passionate, painful tale that you will remember for a long time, following fraternal twins Estha and Rahel and their tumultuous family. Set in Kerala, India, the novel talks about forbidden, taboo loves and has some of the most compelling characters you could find.

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