Sunday, 29 March 2015

Book Review: An Obedient Father by Akhil Sharma.

Book: An Obedient Father

Author: Akhil Sharma

Pages: 278

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: Ram Karan, a corrupt official in the Physical Education department of the Delhi school system, lives in one of the city's slums with his widowed daughter and his little granddaughter. Bumbling, ironical, sad, Ram is also a man corroded by a guilty secret.

When Rajiv Gandhi, the soon-to-be Prime Minister, is murdered, the country is plunged into confusion and Ram, as his department's resident bribe-collector, is trapped in a series of escalating, possibly deadly political betrayals. While he tries to protect himself and his family, his daughter reveals a crime that he had hoped would be buried forever. Ram's struggle to survive, and make amends after a life of deception, thrusts him among gangsters and movie stars, into riots and morgues.

Akhil Sharma's characters, whether politicians, children, priests, or extortionists, are exactly rendered, full of pathos and absurdity. An Obedient Father takes the reader to a world that is both far away and as real as the headlines or the house across the street-and into the mind of a character as tormented, funny, and morally ambiguous as one of Dostoevsky's anti-heroes.

General Thoughts: Well, I had no idea going into this book that it would prove to be a difficult read. The blurb on back of the book isn't particularly helpful in telling me what to fully expect from this book. I only knew the bare minimum. The plot summary above, is not the one on the back of my edition. I just wanted you guys to have a more comprehensive idea about the story and subject matter.

I mainly bought this book because I heard some amazing things about Sharma's new book Family Life that came out last year. I got this first since it's the author's debut novel. I have bought Family Life this month and will be reading in later in the year.

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing was good. The author does an amazing job at creating this world--- not just the Delhi of the early 90s, but of this family, this broken and highly dysfuctional family as well is made to seem real and flesh and bones.

2. The characters in this people were so real, sad and broken and damaged but incredibly real.

3. I loved, absolutely loved the setting of this book and the time period it was set in. India post-Liberalization is one of my favourite time periods to read about. For one I have actual...somewhat clear memories of the time. Especially the summer in which Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated is very clear in my mind. So reading about this time and seeing the repercussions of his death on party workers made for an interesting read.

4. Ram Kiran is a vile, vile man. He is vermin in my opinion. Apart from being a relentless bribe-taker. He is a child-rapist. A father who raped his own daughter. There is no redemption for him in my eyes. It was very hard to see the world through his eyes and his distorted world view. Especially when he thinks about past events and thinks back to the time he used to actively abuse his daughter. As hard as these bits were to read, it made me see the world and see a person, I'd normally not want to read about, it was a very different reading experience. To see the world of a person like Ram Kiran.

5. The book looks into the world of petty bureaucracy and it's very corrupt and twisted form that sometimes (a lot of times) exists here in India. This was also something I found interesting to read about.

6. A book covers a lot of history of this family- Ram Kiran's childhood and youth, the early years of his marriage. Anita's tragic childhood and her marriage and the early years of her married life. I liked that we got to see so much of this family and it's background. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. The difficult subject matter never got easy to read. To read about rape is never easy, worse still if it is the rape of a child. It just left a very bad taste in my mouth.

2. Anita, the victim of the sexual abuse, was such a non-character. Even thought huge portions of the book was from her perspective, I felt no connection to her. I felt that I barely got to know her. I felt empathy for her but I just not to connect with adult Anita.

3. The book's ending was also a bit absurd.

4. The politics towards  the end was a bit boring, for me. I am not hugely into politics and I don't like reading about it. So personally, those bits were a little dry and dull.

Rating: 2/5 (A bit harsh but this overall, was a let-down read for me.)

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