The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai, Grove/Atlantic Inc, 2006, 357 pp
I read this on the plane to France and in the hotel room in Paris. It is great! A family in a remote part of India lives in reduced circumstances in a crumbling house. The grandfather was a judge. He had been educated at Oxford and risen from his family's poverty; one of those Indian situations where all resources went to the smart son of the family in an effort to raise their status. Now he is a bitter old man.
His granddaughter came to live there when she was nine. Her parents had died in Russia, where her father was involved in the space program and there was no more money to pay for her boarding school. Fascinating the different kinds of lives that people lead.
The entire book was a study in Indian customs and social issues. A cast of odd individuals in the village include two spinster sisters who have English sensibilities left from colonial days and who continue the granddaughter's education. At 16, the granddaughter gets a tutor from the village for science. He is from another very poor family; they fall in love but he gets caught up in a tribal terrorist group.
Finally there is the family cook, who is the person who has actually cared for the granddaughter and who has a son trying to make a life in New York City, working in one restaurant after another and living in the immigrant bowels of the city.
No one's dreams come true, mostly all is lost and in this way it is a sad story. But I found it to be an excellent assessment of the way human beings reach for dreams and love and self-importance in many varied patterns. The interaction of cultures and social levels is an old story on planet Earth, so it is Desai's considerable skill as a writer that makes the novel a unique and fresh tale. She was awarded the Booker Prize and I think she deserved it.