As per Goodreads, hardly anyone seems to dislike this book. Just me then.
We have been facing illness of some sort or the other all this month, affecting everyone in my family in turn. My turn came last week. I had been reading Sacred Games at the time and the first night of fever and delirium had a nightmarish quality to it. I actually did not know if I was me or Ganesh Gaitonde and there were gangsters in the room all around me. I still shudder to think of it!
But the book. A lot of readers on Goodreads mentioned how the language complicated things for them till they gave up on checking the glossary. As an Indian, I can freely admit that several of those words were new to me too. But no need to hurry to any glossary. It was mostly only profanity. And it was all gratuitous. But that in itself was not a deal breaker. I found the story fast moving and gripping to start with. I found both Sartaj and Gaitonde very interesting characters. But somewhere about the 60% mark (according to my Kindle), I found myself really struggling to plough through and wondering if there was a point to this book at all. And when I reached the whole Zoya Mirza segment, I shut it, walked up to my husband, demanded the ‘what nexts’ to all the threads in the story and did a remove from device. I just did not want this sick book on my kindle. I did not want it when I was feeling so ill, I did not want it to depress me any further.
Unfortunately my husband had forgotten some of the resolutions and when I thought of something I had missed, I had to reload the book. But there was no reason for me to read sequentially anymore so I went back and forth to pick up the pieces.
Having read about 90% of this book then, here’s my final final verdict. There is no point to this book. There is a theme and it is violence. The circularity and inevitability of it. The book begins with an act of meaningless violence as an innocent puppy is hurled to it’s death. There is no remorse, retribution, redemption, nothing. And it keeps flowing. There is gangster violence, naxal violence, police violence, partition violence and in one deeply affecting story thread, the killing of identity instead of the body with the still looming threat of domestic violence in suburban America.
It is far from being a complete loss of course. Vikram Chandra is a gifted writer. Even his minor characters like Ram Pari, Mataji and the little girl Aisha, oh and Jana are well etched. Actually that is the problem. These minor characters are the normal ones. They’re the ones we can care for. They feel real. They populate our world. I am sure there is a real world populated by Gurujis and Kamala Pandeys and Ganesh Gaitondes too but it is so far removed from my reality. It is such a big investment for me to enter their murky world and stay there for a while. There is nothing to make me want to stay there long. I wish this book had had some sort of editing.
Final final final verdict – This is a two Heyer book. I will need to read two of Georgette Heyer’s sparkling romances with one chaste kiss at the end to lift me from the blues of this one!