Customer Reviews for

The Inheritance of Loss

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

You people don't get it

Good writing isn't beginning middle and end. A novel doesn't need a clear plot to be excellent. You see, there are things in the business called 'literary devices.' Some of these are things like irony, symbolism, personification, things like that. The 'proper' use of th...
Good writing isn't beginning middle and end. A novel doesn't need a clear plot to be excellent. You see, there are things in the business called 'literary devices.' Some of these are things like irony, symbolism, personification, things like that. The 'proper' use of these transcends the simple writing that rubes like you people seem to enjoy and turns a text into a well of meaning. If you aren't too inept to notice, you'll find that Desai's novel is loaded with themes dealing with the effects of post-colonialism on the third world. She does a very elegant job portraying these themes, especially through the relationships she creates between characters. Overall it was a good read 'in every sense of the word'.

posted by Anonymous on March 18, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

Poorly executed writing and Morally Offensive

Was it not Orhan Pamuk that said that an author who has not experienced poverty should not attempt to write about it? Kiran Desai has violated this maxim and her elitist attitude and class status are clearly evident.

"The Inheritance of Loss" is virtually an unread...
Was it not Orhan Pamuk that said that an author who has not experienced poverty should not attempt to write about it? Kiran Desai has violated this maxim and her elitist attitude and class status are clearly evident.

"The Inheritance of Loss" is virtually an unreadable novel for several reasons. However, before I go into these, and another commenter calls me and other "negative" commenters "rubes," I should state that I have been studying and reading literature for thirty years and am a civil rights attorney.

Ms. Desai's novel fails in several areas: characterization, dialogue, grammar, sentence construction, flow of the prose, and moral obligation to the subjects.

Every character in this novel has the same voice and interior monologue. All the voices are juvenile at best and immature at worst despite the age of the character. (e.g., p. 3, during the judge's interior monologue, he thinks, "Never ever was the tea . . ." May I ask, which adult male uses the term "Never ever" verbally or in his own mind? Similarly, the cook thinks in his interior monologue on page 10. "They had guns now, which they might clean of rust, fill with bullets, and . . . shoot!" A grown man with average intelligence would not think in such childlike terms.)

Further, you do not "know" the characters since each of them appear to be the same in tone, thoughts and personality. Unlike, perhaps, the deep and vivid characters in Jhumpa Lahiri's work, Desai's characters are flat, sterotypical and robotic.

Ms. Desai's use of dialogue is unrealistic and stilted as well. If you read her dialogue out loud with another person, you will realize that people do not talk in that manner.

Grammatically, Ms. Desai's book is rife with a plethora of errors that read to a person like fingernails scratching down the literary blackboard of the soul. The novel reads like an exotic Sophie Kinsella novel. She overuses adverbs and adjectives in a superfluous manner. She uses the same word redundantly in the sentence. (e.g., p. 8, the word "hanging" is used twice in one sentence.) Perhaps, she could make use of a thesaurus. Virtually on every page, she misuses dependent clauses such that actions occur simultaneously, which could not happen at the same time. There is a more creative way to design similes and metaphors than by always using the word "as." This writing distracts from the flow of a novel.

The most egregious part of Ms. Desai's book is that it humiliates and debases people of poverty, people not of her socio-economic class and caste. She presents all the impoverished characters as though they were weak, powerless, unintelligent and prideless. Apparently, Ms. Desai has had very few negative and/or real life experiences and has lived in a privileged bubble as shown by her insensitivity in the text. (e.g., page 6 when describing the cook: "His lines had been honed over centuries, passed down through generations, for poor people needed certain lines; the script was always the same, and they had no option but to beg for mercy. The cook knew instinctively how to cry." This is insulting and degrading. Also, on page 11, she writes "He was a powerless man, barely enough learning to read and write, had worked like a donkey all his life...."

Perhaps, she should listen to her dear friend Orhan Pamuk.

posted by Lagniappe_Literature on April 22, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2009

    Poorly executed writing and Morally Offensive

    Was it not Orhan Pamuk that said that an author who has not experienced poverty should not attempt to write about it? Kiran Desai has violated this maxim and her elitist attitude and class status are clearly evident.

    "The Inheritance of Loss" is virtually an unreadable novel for several reasons. However, before I go into these, and another commenter calls me and other "negative" commenters "rubes," I should state that I have been studying and reading literature for thirty years and am a civil rights attorney.

    Ms. Desai's novel fails in several areas: characterization, dialogue, grammar, sentence construction, flow of the prose, and moral obligation to the subjects.

    Every character in this novel has the same voice and interior monologue. All the voices are juvenile at best and immature at worst despite the age of the character. (e.g., p. 3, during the judge's interior monologue, he thinks, "Never ever was the tea . . ." May I ask, which adult male uses the term "Never ever" verbally or in his own mind? Similarly, the cook thinks in his interior monologue on page 10. "They had guns now, which they might clean of rust, fill with bullets, and . . . shoot!" A grown man with average intelligence would not think in such childlike terms.)

    Further, you do not "know" the characters since each of them appear to be the same in tone, thoughts and personality. Unlike, perhaps, the deep and vivid characters in Jhumpa Lahiri's work, Desai's characters are flat, sterotypical and robotic.

    Ms. Desai's use of dialogue is unrealistic and stilted as well. If you read her dialogue out loud with another person, you will realize that people do not talk in that manner.

    Grammatically, Ms. Desai's book is rife with a plethora of errors that read to a person like fingernails scratching down the literary blackboard of the soul. The novel reads like an exotic Sophie Kinsella novel. She overuses adverbs and adjectives in a superfluous manner. She uses the same word redundantly in the sentence. (e.g., p. 8, the word "hanging" is used twice in one sentence.) Perhaps, she could make use of a thesaurus. Virtually on every page, she misuses dependent clauses such that actions occur simultaneously, which could not happen at the same time. There is a more creative way to design similes and metaphors than by always using the word "as." This writing distracts from the flow of a novel.

    The most egregious part of Ms. Desai's book is that it humiliates and debases people of poverty, people not of her socio-economic class and caste. She presents all the impoverished characters as though they were weak, powerless, unintelligent and prideless. Apparently, Ms. Desai has had very few negative and/or real life experiences and has lived in a privileged bubble as shown by her insensitivity in the text. (e.g., page 6 when describing the cook: "His lines had been honed over centuries, passed down through generations, for poor people needed certain lines; the script was always the same, and they had no option but to beg for mercy. The cook knew instinctively how to cry." This is insulting and degrading. Also, on page 11, she writes "He was a powerless man, barely enough learning to read and write, had worked like a donkey all his life...."

    Perhaps, she should listen to her dear friend Orhan Pamuk.

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2007

    I Put This One Down

    I am an AVID reader and HATE not finishing a book, but I just could not get through this one. I am usually eager to read and find out what happens next, but picking up this book was painful each time and I decided to just give up. If you like books that discuss political issues this might be for you, but I prefer great characters that you learn to love/hate/empathize with etc. and I did not find that in The Inheritance of Loss.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    If You Like Wading, Jump Right In.

    I really wish I had read the reviews before buying this book. I can't believed it received such acclaim. The author clearly has style--her narration is chock-full of little spot-on anecdotes--but her character and plot development are nonexistent. I have felt more connected to cartoon characters. Maybe I just didn't get it, missed the point, but by the time I was halfway through, I hated the book so much that I didn't care anymore about the fact that it was over my head. I will never again purchase a book based solely on its receipt of the National Book Critics Circle Award or the Man Booker Prize.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    Complicated but in the end politically challenging

    The story made me curious enough to continue reading to the end but most of the characters were unlikeable people. There was a great deal of turmoil in the story that didn't seem to have a point until near the end of the book when the historical political implications were made apparent. This story could serve as the basis for book club discussions about empirialism and hegemony with extrapolation to contemporary events.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2008

    hard to follow

    I love historical novels, but the history here wasn't presented clearly, and the characters and story were boring. Only Biju came alive for me - I wish there'd been more about him. The other characters and their backgrounds (each representing some social or political group, to drive home the historical points), all became a blur. I enjoyed learning more about the upheaval/conflicts in India at that time, but it was a long, slow read, and the melodrama at the end felt contrived.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2008

    A reviewer

    I thought this would be a good book, but it turned out to be confusing, wildly random and difficult to follow.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2008

    No to This One

    The reviewers who loved this one do not need to insult those of us, and it seems to be the majority, who do Not. I am a college graduate so I have some smarts. But this book was a waste. I regret spending the money. The beautiful cover and the inside jacket rave reviews sold me. Next time I will think twice about a Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Award. The story was disjointed and sporadic. I do want some degree of coherency and fluidity to a story. This was a mess. I just didn't get it. I started over several times. Thought about having my reading friend try it for her opinion. There are just too many good, great books out there to waste time and money on something like this.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2008

    You people don't get it

    Good writing isn't beginning middle and end. A novel doesn't need a clear plot to be excellent. You see, there are things in the business called 'literary devices.' Some of these are things like irony, symbolism, personification, things like that. The 'proper' use of these transcends the simple writing that rubes like you people seem to enjoy and turns a text into a well of meaning. If you aren't too inept to notice, you'll find that Desai's novel is loaded with themes dealing with the effects of post-colonialism on the third world. She does a very elegant job portraying these themes, especially through the relationships she creates between characters. Overall it was a good read 'in every sense of the word'.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 14, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Inheritance of Loss is a truly beautiful novel. The themes K

    The Inheritance of Loss is a truly beautiful novel. The themes Kiren Desai explores in this story, family dynamic and national identity, are almost cliche when it comes to Indian literature, but Desai pulls it off, and beautifully so. These characters will get inside you, their hopeless dreams will become your hopeless dreams, their deep regrets will become your deep regrets, their mountain will become your mountain. The rich and evocative prose is perfect for the subject matter, and the story unfolds in a natural way which will keep you turning pages. This novel strongly reminded me of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, which is a very good thing.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 7, 2012

    For some time I wanted to read this book. The cover and the titt

    For some time I wanted to read this book. The cover and the tittle caught my attention at first glance, but, at the same time, I was afraid that this was one of those books which would make me feel disappointed because of the initial expectations I had about it.

    I admit that initially it was a little hard for me to read and make a connection between characters and stories. The first, let’s say, 150 pages, were slow reading. After that, as I became more familiar with the characters, it started to be easier to establish a connection between everything I was reading.

    The writing is amazing, almost like poetry sometimes. There are lots of details, which is, in my opinion, a positive thing, although sometimes it makes the story develop slowly. But, on the other hand, I think that the details give value to the book and to the story.

    It takes some mental availability to really capture every detail that is written; to travel between India, England, USA, a little bit of Russia, without getting lost along the way; to create a connection with the characters, remembering their past and the present.

    From Sai's life (and her relationship with Gyan), who lives in India with her grandfather (who had a brilliant past but became a cold man) and with the cook (whose son was working for the U.S.A.), through Uncle Potty, an alcoholic, Father Botty, who has a “small secret" revealed halfway through the book, and the two sisters who live alone and have to rely on a guard who they barely know, to the life of Biju and his friends in the U.S. and the difficulties foreigners can have a country that is not theirs. We see the lives of the characters unfold from a past time at a college in England which is the beginning of new habits and ideas, an orphanage, illegal ways to achieve what you want, because it's the only way to get it, the idea that you have to hide the past or present story about your family; war and hate. It is the story of an inherited poverty, that often goes unnoticed, and an inhumanity that we would prefer that not existed.

    It is not a light reading, but I recommend it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 22, 2012

    slightly offended, but I feel a little smarter now, I guess.

    Having read 'the most helpful critical review' before reading this for school, I really noticed the infantalization of many of the characters. No lie, it was offensive, if not just annoying.
    But it caused me to consider colonialism and other (kind of) current events effecting India.
    After reading the book, I read some scholarly articles on it, that also gave the characters' attitudes more meaning. But that doesn't make it a fun read, does it?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2012

    highly recommend

    Themes relate to impact of colonialism on a culture. I read some of it aloud to my mom, because she loves beautifully crafted sentences. Much food for thought--fabulously written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Don't waste your time

    I felt fortunate when I picked up this book in the audio format for pennies on the dollar at a thrift store. However, that is where the good luck stopped. This book was really hard to follow. It lacked good flow and did not have the skill needed to artfully weave past to present and vice-versa. It was choppy and confusing. Because of that I did not become invested in the characters, so it didn't matter what happened to them. I have worked in education for 20 years and have been exposed to many writing styles. I am an avid reader that tries to give an author a fair chance by trying to finish what I start. Unfortunately, I pushed on through this one to the end, even though the end could not get there fast enough. When the big confusing amalgamation finally finished, it was a huge relief that I felt physically, thankful to get it behind me. I will not pass it on. There were moments of brilliance when the author deftly painted pictorial prose and I suppose because of those rare gems, I continued on with hope. But the book did not live up to the hype and I'm wondering how it could have received any type of award. There are too many wonderful books out there to waste your time on this one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Enjoyable

    Very flavorful writing. Not quite as good as The God of Small Things, but very good

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2008

    Disappointing

    This book doesn't seem to have any point. It goes on and on about the characters, but doesn't ever really bring it all together. I don't see how/why this won any awards.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2008

    I remain clueless

    This is one of those books where the author appears to have felt pressured to get another book out there right away. She almost begins to make some connection between the characters, some purpose for the reader to want to learn more about them. Unfortunately, it just continues to wander until I realize I've been turning pages and don't have any idea what I just read. Tried putting it down, reading a different book, then picking it up again. It just gets worse. My physician took it off my hands thinking he might like it. He thanked me for the best sleep he's had in a long time. I honestly don't even care that I'll never know how it ended because I never knew what was going on from the start. (or at any other time)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    Disappointment!

    Like another reviewer, I was excited to read this book, with all of the awards and great reviews. It was very nicely written indeed, but was lacking in any kind of story that could be followed and enjoyed. I struggled to finish, and really didn't want to. I thought I would be rewarded at the end, but was not. In a word: BO-RING.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2007

    A wonderfully written book

    Beautifully written, this book is a coming-of-age story that depicts a young girl growing up as an orphan in her grandfather's home. It presents a tapestry of lives in Nepal amid political change.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2007

    A real disappointment

    I was really excited to read this book because it's an award winner and had such good reviews. I was so disappointed. The book seemed to go nowhere. There was no real plot or story. I agree with the other reviewer, I also hate not finishing a book but I just couldn't continue reading this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2007

    A reviewer

    I loved this book...could hardly put it down. I have spent time in India perhaps that is why I liked it so much. I thought she had amazing insight into all of human behaivor.

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