I read this as part of my Reading Group with Walthamstow Library. It was very definitely a book of two halves – or more like a book of two-thirds and then one third, LOL.
The first part of the story centres around Uma, a (now) middle-aged spinster, living in India with ‘MamaPapa’, her parents who never leave each other’s side, thus seemingly one entity. Uma is the oldest of three children. Her thick glasses, plain looks, below-average intelligence and lack of knowledge of how to attract the opp0site sex has meant that she has lived almost her whole life in the family home.
The second part of the story follows her little brother Arun, who has gone to study in America.
To be honest, I wish that the story had never split. I was loving Uma’s story. The writing was so colourful, so well-crafted, the scenes drawn so vividly that it kind of disguised a lot of how totally depressing Uma’s life was.
In contrast, we are suddenly thrown into Arun’s life where he is staying with an american family during the summer break. he is quiet and not exactly likeable. the family are dysfunctional and he doesn’t really enjoy being there. everything is based around food – the father who BBQs everything, the mother who decides to be a vegetarian with Arun, the health freak son and the bulimic daughter. It was all very odd.
I couldn’t care less what happened to Arun, there was hardly any reference to his family back in India and there was absolutely no resolution to Uma’s story which had been far more enjoyable and which I had really bought into!
I would really recommend reading the first part of this book, but would suggest people didn’t bother with the second!
Why it was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize is beyond me.