The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

Lives of Others pbk mech.inddIn this Man Booker nominated novel, Mukherjee tells us the story of the Ghosh family. They all live in the same four story house in Calcutta. The grandparents live on the top floor with their eldest son, his wife, and their children. On the bottom is the widow of their youngest son and her two children. We go from relative wealth and servants to abject poverty just by walking down the stairs.

Frankly, I thought the whole Maoist plot (double entendre not originally intended, but apt) with Supratik was superfluous.  It interrupted the flow of the story.  I would have much preferred to either stay in Calcutta and observe the Ghoshes in their natural habitat, or remain in the villages. All the hopping around between the two just added to the disjointedness of the book which was bad enough with the sheer number of point-of-view shifts between family members.

The family dynamics are fascinating if you can just get passed the horribleness of these people. I couldn’t.  Priyo and Chhaya were the worst. Just no. I managed to get through the scene in the brothel, barely, though my head was filled with a giant exclamation point as I kept chanting “Ewww!”. But, then, what happened in the bathroom.  “Ewww!” was joined by “Ick!” and “Oh, my God!!!”.  I promptly deleted the book from my Kindle.

This book gets an emphatic DNF (Did Not Finish).


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