25 February, 2021

Pretty In Prose

Revisiting the book that makes its author the youngest woman writer to win the prize

Narendra Bisht
Pretty In Prose
Kiran Desai's Inheritance of Loss is a joyride. It's a coming-of-age novel that evades puberty: its dreamscape is an adult's idyll of childhood, beautiful and utterly unreal.

Sai, orphaned at 13, is plucked from a chilly convent, and sent to Kalimpong to live with her grandfather, old Judge Jemubhai Patel. It's a frozen household, except for the cook who is Sai's uneasy bridge to the alien world of Kalimpong. Her other companions are a battered bunch of ageing Anglophiles. What else can she do at 17 but fall in love?

Gyan, 20, brilliant, subversive is uneasy in this deodorised version of teenage love. There is no anguish. There are no terrors, even when the GNLF erupts around Sai's safe amnion. The novel's second thread is the tale of the cook's son Biju, an illegal immigrant in the US. This trans-continental drift of kitchen confidential ought to have been tragic, but it stays cruelly antic even to the malicious finish, almost as if the author (echoing Sai) is punishing the cook for loving his son. Despite seizures of...

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