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Naipaul's protagonist is Willie Somerset Chandran, named after Somerset Maugham's encounter with Willie's father in the 1930s while traveling "to get material for a novel about spirituality." Willie travels to England for his education, where he becomes "part of the special, passing bohemian-immigrant life of London of the late 1950s." Willie soon realizes that his colonial background allows him to write short stories for well-meaning white liberals, and he begins "to understand that he was free to present himself as he wished" and that he could "remake himself and his past" through his writing. The effect is suffocating rather than liberating, and he marries a vaguely sketched "girl or young woman from an African country," who has read his one published book. Willie begins another "half life" in colonial Mozambique, where he soon tires of the domestic and sexual tedium of plantation life and flees to Germany, mournfully reflecting that "I have been hiding for too long."
This is classic Naipaul, with its effortless dissection of the damaging personal consequences of post-war decolonization, but its virtue seems its primary vice, as the novel feels like a conflation of several earlier Naipaul books, including The Mimic Men and the brilliant A Bend in the River. Consequently, some readers may well find that Half a Life reads more like half a novel. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk
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Enjoyed the authors honest character. I believe many who read this will identify with Willy to some degree. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
It's good when you start reading a book and know before you've reached the third page that judges were right in picking it as a winner. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Rosalind Minett
Not his greatest but even his misses are as great as most average writers hits. Mr biswas or his travel books wld be a better place to startPublished 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
Half a life is just that. It's a young man's story until he's about 40. Willie's born in the Maharaja's state in India, from a line of people who have performed sacred Hindi... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Suzanne
This is the first novel by Naipaul that I have ever read. In fact, I don't remember having heard of him before my book club chose this book. Read morePublished on October 26, 2012 by Julie W. Capell
No doubt Naipaul is a good writer and a splendid storyteller. I found the novel excellent at its best, and boring and sad at its worst. Read morePublished on September 6, 2012 by Jørgen, Brussels
I would skip this unengaging work and head to others by the author (Bend in the River, etc) unless completeness is your goal. Read morePublished on March 31, 2012 by silvercritic
This was an interesting book played out on an interesting stage with a main character who is not a hero, a bit of a chicken who makes questionable half decisions. Read morePublished on July 6, 2011 by E. Miller
It's nearly impossible to really write a review of Naipaul's Half a Life without including a gut reaction. Read morePublished on January 13, 2011 by Becky at "One Literature Nut"