Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni's "Oleander Girl" and Kim Stanley Robinson's "Escape from Kathmandu"

Oleander Girl tells the story of Korobi, a headstrong young woman, living with her grandparents (from her mother's side) as she was orphaned from birth. Her grandfather Bimal Roy is a reputable lawyer in Kolkata and she gets a good upbringing in the family. Later she meets Rajat, the only son of affluent Bose family, and falls in love with him. After their engagement party, Korobi's grandfather dies of heart attack. He seems to murmur something from his deathbed and later Korobi's grandmother reveals that Korobi's mother Anu had married a foreigner while studying in America and her American father is still alive. Korobi starts her quest for the lost father in post 9/11 America and this existential journey entails a host of problems which threaten the rhythm of her life. I loved this novel because of its warmth. Chitra is a great storyteller and she cares for her characters. So, every major and minor character is introduced to the reader in detail and the reader has instant identification with these likable people. Even the negative characters have certain humane aspects that cannot be ignored. Chitra employs language in a lucid and engaging manner and makes the novel a magical experience not to be missed at any cost.

Escape from Kathmandu is a pretentious, nonsensical and utterly forgettable novel that tells the story of George Ferguson who meets a group of wildlife observers/scientists in Kathmandu. Some among that group want to smuggle a yeti out of Nepal for different experiments while some others don't want to do this. During the visit of ex-president Jimmy Carter's visit to Nepal, the battle between two sets of people for taking yeti out and relocating the yeti to wilderness leads to an adventure in Kathmandu streets. The story of this novel is ludicrous as you may have glimpsed from the summary. This book merely panders to the Westerners' neurotic obsession with the Yeti and weaves a weak story around it. The writer gets many details wrong and the whole narrative falters after a point. An avoidable book.      

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