Thursday, 30 January 2014

Sister Reads | Review: The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

Book: The Great Indian Novel

Author: Shashi Tharoor

Pages: 423

Time it took me to read: Over the course of three days

Plot Summary: In this award-winning, internationally acclaimed novel, Tharoor has masterfully recast the 2,000 year-old epic, The Mahabharata, with fictional but highly recognisable events and characters from twentieth-century Indian politics. Chronicling the Indian struggle for freedom and independence from Great Britain, Tharoor directs his hilarious satire as much against Indian foibles as the bumbling of the British rulers. 

Thoughts and Review: I read 'The Great Indian Novel' for the first time in college.. in my First Year (as we say in India) or my Freshman Year (as our American friends call it). One of my closest friends- Mich- recommended the book to me and even gave me her copy. I had not read too many Indian authors (writing in English) at this point and so, was slightly sceptical. Well, sceptical till I read the first three pages and then I as a fan. 

It is unfortunate that Shashi Tharoor is in the news for all the wrong things right now (and in the past few years) because all these shenanigans take away from the fact that the man is a BRILLIANT author! 

The Great Indian Novel, in its most obvious avatar, tells the story of India's struggle for independence from the British rule. It tells the story of our nationalist movement and the leaders who were in the front and center of it. However, what makes this book brilliant is how Tharoor uses wicked satire and superb form to use the characters of the Mahabharata- the greatest Indian epic with the most well-sketched, legendary characters. So, at one level, you read about the events that took place in the first half of the twentieth century, but you experience them through the characters of the Mahabharata. That's a crash course in Indian history (of sorts) right there! 

The way the characters of the Mahabharata come alive in our Nationalist Movement leaders is quite interesting and totally hilarious! 

One need not be familiar with The Mahabharata to enjoy this book, because Tharoor does provide a context to the events and characters and you don't feel lost or anything. So, even if you are totally unfamiliar with the great Indian epic, you can still read The Great Indian Novel

The book is told with a wry and wicked sense of humour and there are so many laugh out loud moments. I think I scared my roommate by giggling out loudly in the middle of the night whilst reading this book. 

Highly, highly recommend this book. 

Will You Like It?: If you enjoy history in any shape or form and if you love clever writing and satire, then this is an absolute must-read for you! I am going to re-read this very soon just because it has been SO long! 

Rating: 4.5/5 (I remember feeling it dragged on a bit in the middle, but I could also put that down to being 18 and silly *grin*)


Minal Arora said...

Can I send my book for a review?

Pooja T said...

Hi Minal,
Please email us at whimsybookworm at gmail dot com.


Unknown said...


I had got my book published in Dec 2013. May I request for a book review?

P.S - I'm sending the mail to the above address anyways :P