Dear Great Book Guru, Spring has just arrived and I am filled with energy and optimism. Sea Cliff is as lovely all seasons of the year, but I would love to read a book about other cultures. Any thoughts? A Spring Sprite
Dear Spring Sprite, I was away this weekend at the annual Barbara Pym Conference in Cambridge, MA where I picked up a short, incredibly moving novel: GHACHAR GHOCHAR by Vivek Shanbbag. The title comes from a phrase invented by children to describe a tangled web and this is indeed a tangled web of a story. We meet the nameless narrator in a large coffee house in Bangalore, India. He is anxiously seeking advice from the shop owner, who he sees as a man great wisdom. Very soon we have reason to question our narrator’s reliability. He and his family have been living an impoverished, stressful existence where every rupee had to be accounted for. Horrific news comes: his father the main provider for the family has lost his job. When a young uncle offers to start up a spice business using the father’s severance pay, everyone fears financial ruin. But instantly the business prospers and the family becomes extraordinarily wealthy. The contrast in their former and present life styles makes for a fascinating study of Indian society. The novel takes a very dark turn as corruption, indolence, and violence become embedded in their daily lives. When the story ends, we feel terrified for what is to come. Highly recommended!