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The Elephanta Suite Kindle Edition
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- ASIN : B003JTHWGY
- Publisher : Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 18, 2008)
- Publication date : September 18, 2008
- Language : English
- File size : 906 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 286 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0547086024
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #424,472 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The first story is about a wealthy American couple vacationing in India and ignoring its prohibitions. The second story is about an American businessman who gets into a romantic relationship with two young Indian girls. The third story is about a young American woman who is compromised by the unwanted attentions of an Indian man. Each of these stories has a rather sad ending. And yet each of them tells an unwanted truth about the naivety of the Americans and the problems they create for themselves.
The writing is fast paced and I literally could not put the book down. The stories opened my eyes to the world depicted by the author. They will live in my consciousness a long time and I will likely never forget them. Rarely does a book move me in this way. This is not a pleasant book to read but for those willing to be immersed in a way that is sure to be troubling, I give it my highest recommendation.
Elephants pervade the stories. The Elephanta Suite of the title is a suite in a luxury hotel in Mumbai. It's presumably named after the Elephanta Caves on an island in Mumbai harbour, which once had a huge statue of an elephant outside them (it's now in a museum in the city). The elephant is Ganesha, the Remover of Obstacles - the symbolism is clear enough, but not obtrusive (you don't actually need to know this in order to enjoy the book). The businessman of the centre story stays in the Elephanta Suite (his cocoon), eating tinned tuna and looking out the window, unwilling to commit himself to the city. But eventually he does, and so begins the story that takes him to the ashram. The girl of the final story also has an elephant in her life, a real one - and this elephant does indeed remove an obstacle for her. The businessman finds peace in the ashram, but the girl comes out of the ashram (a different one) and finds a different, possibly more lasting, peace. And the couple of the first story have no elephant at all - they have Hanuman the monkey instead, who has a reputation for violence.
Another theme is sensuality. The couple of the first story are in health spa somewhere in the mountains. They try to find sensual adventure with the spa staff, and fail, with disastrous consequences. The businessman, because he is more respectful of Indians, suffers no such disaster, but instead eventually sees through the shallowness of sensuality. For the girl of the final story it's not her own sensuality that provides the problem. (Sensuality, by the way, is bound up with violence and betrayal in all three stories).
At a more basic level, the narrative in the central and last stories move forward much better than that of the first - I think Theroux might have had a problem, in that all three stories had to be about the same length, but as each extends the reach of the one before, there really wasn't enough to say in the first story, and it does tend to drag at times. The characters are believable (anyone who has visited India will recognise these people), and India itself comes alive.
Top reviews from other countries
Indeed, Theroux has an anthropologist’s eye and is an expert at scribbling about places foreign. One of his recurring themes is: you don’t change your destination; it changes you, often darkly. And that’s more or less what happens in the three stories. In ‘Monkey Hill,’ a rich American couple head to a spa retreat only to drift apart after they each become infatuated with their personal groomers. In ‘The Gateway of India,’ the most sordid of the stories, an American businessman undergoes, without giving too much away, a profound spiritual metamorphosis, while his local counterpart becomes, shall we say, more familiar with American culture. What occurs is a cultural exchange, but not the sort you might imagine. In the ‘Elephant God,’ a young American woman heads to an ashram and has a fatalistic encounter with a seemingly friendly local, a meeting that changes her life.
Paul Theroux does many things well, but he might be best at transporting you to faraway places. You see the smoky haze over the town, smell the elephant dung in the courtyard, and practically feel the grot and grime of the lurid alleys in Mumbai. The Elephanta Suite is a visceral and vivid experience, a delightful little book. How strange it didn’t seem to receive much attention.
Troy Parfitt is the author of War Torn: Adventures in the Brave New Canada and Why China Will Never Rule the World