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Chowringhee Paperback – January 2, 2007
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The novel effectively creates a sense for the reader that the characters are all well-understood actual human beings, with the strengths and weaknesses that pertain to real human beings. We come to laugh and share the emotions of the characters. This novel deserves a much wider readership.
The novel would benefit from a glossary at the end for the quite few terms unique to India that are used. In addition, a reading guide would be useful as this would be a good selection for a book club.
The translator Arunava Sinha deserves special commendation for his efforts.
Shankar is immediately befriended by Sata Bose, the hotel's chief receptionist, and after a brief stint as a typist, Shankar becomes Bose-da's main assistant and close confidant. The manager, Marco Polo, takes a liking to him as well, and young Shankar is given more responsibilities by both men. The novel revolves around the guests, entertainers, and frequent visitors of the Shahjahan, but several members of the hotel staff get equal billing in Shankar's narrative. We learn about the seamy underside of the elite of Calcutta, whose greed, shady deals, and shameful behaviors are initially shocking to our naïve young man, but he soons become jaded and disgusted by them. The poverty of working and jobless Calcuttans is vividly portrayed, as those not in the upper echelon are only one stroke of bad luck away from living in the streets or in dilapidated hovels. Love is a central theme, amongst the guests and workers, with often tragic results.
Chowringhee was a very entertaining and light-hearted though tragic read, which richly and effectively portrayed the struggles, joys and frustrations of the different strata of mid-20th century Calcutta.
What Shankar learns about the staff and of the guests in the hotel is the main theme of the book and provides a kaleidoscope of many individual stories and stories within stories, some entertaining, some very sad, some more interesting, some (in my opinion) very much less so: I found it quite hard to persevere to the end of the book, which circles back to conclude stories near the beginning of which I had quite lost track.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One reviewer states the futility of the comparison of Shankar with Rushdie, Seth, Roy and Mistry, as if he's a pariah among these well-known Indian novelists! Read morePublished on November 24, 2012 by PS