Circle of Reason by Amitav Ghosh

I don’t have the issue that bother some with this book, the way characters disappear. But I’ve been to see Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines and it turned out I could pack up and go home about 20 minutes in. One of those life experiences that hardens you.

A young policeman, whose preference is painting birds, and who is in the police because it was the first civil service position for which he qualified, keeps changing the lives of odd but good people without having any interest in doing so. I want to call him corrupt in that he has a job he doesn’t care about and he treats it in a way  you can’t treat that sort of job. He should care. But in fact he does what he is told, toes the line, hopes to get up the ranks, hopes mainly that he can spend as much time as possible with birds. And so. First he is responsible for the incineration of a group of crazy good people. One escapes and in chasing him down, he is responsible for a brutal police attack on another equally odd group which is doing nothing more than going shopping.

So far I think all this is great. Wonderful story telling in the Indian tradition. It has the quirkiness of, say, a Narayan story, but with that added stark realism that marks modern Indian literature as I’ve experienced it. However, I was lost in the third part where his target is still on the run and they find each other again. It seemed sort of slapsticky and without the same intensity of the first parts. I didn’t understand it and I certainly didn’t believe it. If I’ve missed the point, please tell me what it is as I’d like not to be disappointed by it.

Absolutely worth a read, I was engrossed for much of it. It has much to show the reader about Indian history and politics, the way certain types of societies and situations function. And there are some deeply moving parts, particularly in building up to the first catastrophe. The first parts of the book are utterly gripping. But despite that I’ve put it on my pile of books to give to my local secondhand bookseller here. It’s a pity that when you finish a book, it’s the ending that leaves the taste in your mouth.

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