I have noticed that Indian political novels are not unlike a great jigsaw puzzle, that is each one I’ve read focuses on a certain era and in order to get a complete picture you have to go back in time and see how India’s turbulent political history has shaped up. Here’s what I mean :
Animal’s People and The White Tiger – post 911 India.
A Suitable Boy – Post independence
A Fine Balance – Independence, Partition and Indira Gandhi
and now we’ve got The Great Indian Novel which fills in a lot of gaps .
Tharoor , like Rushdie uses allegory and stories to illustrate his point. However while Rushdie can go into complete flights of fancy, Tharoor is more mocking and after some surreal pieces, will always return to the crux of the matter.
The novel deals with Mahatma Gandhi’s rise to fame until Indira Gandhi’s 1980 victory. To give matters an even bigger twist there are lots of references (and even the book’s structure) to the Rig Vedas. The author also mocks colonial literature by creating punny chapter titles ( The Bungle Book , Passages through India).
Style wise its dazzling, Tharoor’s prose will ensnare from the first sentence and he’s also very humorous so you’ll chuckle quite a bit. As the satire goes I was amazed at how cleverly everything is executed and for the first time I had a very clear view of India’s history.
The one and only gripe I have here is that the book is out of print so you’ll have to go to abebooks in order to find it. Do so though as it’s a fantastic read.