Monday, November 2, 2009

The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

Rating : 10/10
Yes, it is that good. If you love the Mahabharata and love to discuss Indian politics and haven't read this book yet, go pick it. Now. You'll never regret it!

One of the first pages of the book has a note from the author which goes:
''A hasty note of disclaimer is due to those readers who may feel, justifiably, that the work that follows is neither great, nor authentically Indian, nor even much of a novel. The Great Indian Novel takes its title not from the author's estimate of its contents but in deference to its primary source of inspiration, the ancient epic the Mahabharata'

This modesty-affected disclaimer isn't quite necessary since this novel indeed is, a Great Indian Novel. The Mahabharata is India's epic and politics, of course, our epic passtime and to bring them both together sounds epic. But can Shashi Tharoor pull it off?

The Great Indian Novel is the song of India- its great epic and its great struggle for independence and (later) democracy, interwoven inseparably. The relevance of epics is oft spoken about, but you hardly get to see the 'relevance' put in front of your eyes like you do here.

With a keen, often too sharp sense of humour, a vivid narrative, often lined with inside jokes, Tharoor has written what is probably the greatest Indian political satire I've read. Thoroughly entertaining, be it verse or words, with unexpected turns of philosophy, wicked humour, breathtaking creativity and a clear sense of emotion and patriotism, The Great Indian Novel and its characters are memorable to say the least.

To the reader who's always been interested in Indian politics, this book could soon become your haven. Tracking references, 'getting the joke', trailing hints, often staring wide-eyed at pages wondering how someone managed to take such liberties in pulling the leg of our 'national icons', The Great Indian Novel has a sort of excitement and thrill that the likes of The Da Vinci Code can never achieve.               

While reading the book, I did think to myself that I should probably not be enjoying the book this much. And even if I did, its not all credit to Tharoor, for the The Great Indian Novel is more or less 'The Mahabharata Remixed'. Isn't it? But no, inter-connecting our mythical/religious heroes and our national leaders in a way that is spell-binding, in a way that would make you sit up, is no easy task ( I can think of a hundred ways how this book could have gone Oh-so-wrong ) and precisely why this book is a triumph.

Thanks to my friends for gifting this book for my birthday last month. It's definitely one of the best books I've ever read and probably the best book I've read so far, this year! =)


Heather G. said...

I highly enjoy Indian books and movies; I'll have to add this one to my ever growing list!

Kals said...

It's certainly worth a read! I think you'll enjoy it a lot =)

Anonymous said...

Kals, Do you think this book would be appropriate for someone who has little knowledge of India in general? Do you think the inside jokes will keep novice readers from understanding what is going on or would it just inspire you to read more?


Kals said...

Well, I'm not so sure actually since I enjoyed the book because I could catch the inside jokes.

However, it is brilliantly written as a whole and stands as a great novel by itself and I'm sure it will inspire anyone to read more about India. If you're looking to read it but you feel you have little knowledge about India, I'd definitely recommend you check it out! It will teach you a lot about the history/customs and of course politics of India =)

Veens said...

That definitely inspires me to pick it up :)

Good Review!

Kals said...

Thank you! =)


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