Adiga brings it with Between the Assassinations

Between the Assassinations

If you have read The White Tiger, you won’t be disappointed Aravind Adiga‘s followup, Between the Assassinations. Adiga takes his readers to the fictional coastal city of Kittur in Southwest India and gives a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of some of its residents.

The stories in the book take place “between the assassinations” of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 and her son (who became prime minister in 1984) Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. While the city and the people may be made up, the issues they face are very real for those in India. The book deals with everything from issues of caste, sexual disease, drug problems, political corruption, the influx of villagers seeking a better life in the city, and much more.

Coming in to the novel I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get into it, due to the jumping from one short story to the next. Fortunately, Adiga managed to write compelling stories with strong characters and I was hooked on the majority of them. The one criticism I can point out was that there didn’t feel like any conclusion or tying up of loose ends, which I’m so used to. I understand it was a glimpse into the daily lives and not meant to be a long tale, but some cases they felt clipped and left me wanting more (in a bad way).

If you decide to read Between the Assassinations, it’s great for travel or the daily commute into work. You’ll be able to read each story and feel a small sense of accomplishment each time you finish a story.

I’m happy Adiga’s sophomore output wasn’t a disappointment, as many are, so I’m anticipating his next release, which I hope comes sooner rather than later. I give Between the Assassinations a 4/5.

Have you read it? Let me know what you thought.

My Top 5 fiction books of 2009

If you know me, you know I like to read. I figured it was natural to make a top 5 fiction books of 2009 blog as my next post in the series. Unlike my other reviews, these will be the best books that I’ve read in 2009; not necessarily ones that were published in 2009.

I’ll soon be posting my top non-fiction books of the year, but until then you can tell me what you think of this list, and what your list would look like.

NUMBER FIVE

White Tiger

I only picked The White Tiger up because I had a gift certificate to Chapters; that and it looked interesting of course. I believe this was Aravind Adiga‘s first book, and it was published in 2008, so right off the bat we’re not talking about books from this year. Honestly I had seen a few people reading this on the subway so when I went in to Chapters it caught my attention. Contrary to what the book cover said, White Tiger won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. Recognition for books isn’t a big selling point for me, but seeing others read it is, so I’m sure having the exposure it got from the award went a long way to seeing it on my bookshelf.

On to the story: The protagonist Balram Halwai spends the entire book writing a letter to a Chinese official named Wen Jiabao, who is set to visit India. Balram explains the true side of India, not the one the officials will boast about, and to do so he writes about his past and how he got to where he is today.

My biggest issue was the connection to the Chinese official. I Adiga could’ve come up with something better to tie in Balram’s recollections. Otherwise it was a great book and it shows the extreme class difference in the country, which isn’t something people are generally exposed to.

NUMBER FOUR

Schindler’s List

When I bought Schindler’s List I’d obviously heard of it’s great success as a book and movie (which I have still not seen) and I wanted to join the club. I was a little skeptical about how the book would read. I thought it would be page after page of sad stories and an overall depressing book, given the subject matter. Surprisingly I found it to be extremely engaging and getting to know Oscar Schindler was a great experience. That being said, it wasn’t a book for the feint of heart. It had some pretty graphic situations and it made me appreciate what everyone went through in those exceedingly tough times that probably couldn’t even be put into words.

NUMBER THREE

Any Known Blood

Any Known Blood was the second book by Lawrence Hill that I’ve read, but it was published 10 years before his more recognized book “The Book of Negroes”, in 1997. This book is different from The Book of Negroes, but Hill’s writing style is equally captivating. Set in Toronto/Oakvlle and Baltimore this book follows Langston Cane the fifth on his quest to find his family’s history and write a book about it. The book travels back through 5 generations of Cane’s (all named Langston) and tells their story; each unique to the era they lived in. I really enjoyed the generational jumps and thought that was very unique. The only issue I had with that was since all shared the same name, at times it was a bit hard to differentiate who was who. Overall it was an excellent read and had strong characters, which I always try to look for in books I read.

NUMBER TWO

Three Day Road

I previously blogged about Three Day Road after I read it. It was a late-comer to the top five list, but a fast riser making it to number two. I’ll keep this review short. It’s a great book with amazing character development and a not-often-told perspective on Canadian history. Though the book was fiction, it was based on real events and as a reader, I felt a part of what author Joseph Boyden was trying to convey.

NUMBER ONE

The Book of Negroes

I can’t remember why I picked The Book of Negroes up, but I’m glad I did because it became not only my favourite book of 2009 but one of my favourites of all time; possibly the top spot, but I haven’t decided yet (there are many that are top-spot quality and I’ll eventually blog about this!).  I cant say enough how extremely well written this novel is. It blends fiction with the harsh reality of the time. I really felt like I was reading the life story of Aminata the protagonist as she was ripped from her village in Africa, sold into slavery in America and her many travels from then on back to Africa and the UK. This one book made me a Lawrence Hill fan for as long as he keeps writing.

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