By Zadie Smith. This is one of the best books I’ve read in the last few months, for sure. Every character has a compelling thread of story, woven together in the complex and brilliant tapestry that makes up this novel. It ranks up there with Midnight’s Children as a Great Novel, in my opinion. I loved the exaggeration of the characters, who, while larger-than-life, were eminently believable and human. But it was that distillation of them, what Smith chose to write about, that makes the whole experience so much fun.
I read this book in two binges of weekend reading — I couldn’t bring myself to read just a chapter a day over the course of time. I needed more, which is another tribute to the readability of this book. It takes a slice of a life in a place I know about only through movies and books (England), and made it more real in a way that I had not experienced before. Probably because the characters were Indian, and the time was when I, too, was growing up (unlike, say, Hanif Kureishi). I really connected with these characters, even though they were in another country.
The most interesting aspect of the book, thematically, was how it came back on itself at the end, that there’s this notion of historical necessity that many of the characters carry around with them the whole time. Hortense, who knows that the Rapture is nigh, Millat, who is obeying a destiny, Marcus, who has his mouse, and others too, I bet. If I had to write a paper on the novel, that is certainly something to think of. Everyone has a destiny to follow. And in writing, that is certainly true — the author has written an ending. The joy is in figuring out how the individual destinies intersect and work out in the end.