Wednesday, 13 February 2013

October 2012 - The Space Between us by Thrity Umrigar

Overall the book came across as very anti-male and angry. It is a book which aims to contrast the varying Indian classes, from Bhima and her orphaned Granddaughter Maya who live in a slum, to Bhima's upper class employer, Sera.  There was just as much as a divide at the meeting as there was between the characters lives, with only around 50% finishing the book. The imagery created of lower class India, and the slums were good, however upper class life seemed to lack detail. It was nice that all the characters lives were intertwined; however the outcomes were extremely predictable, even to those who liked the book. Some of our members where frustrated by the constant use of certain Indian words, in places where they just felt they were added for the sake of trying to make the book feel more authentic!
There didn't feel to be much a plot, with quite a few members getting bored and giving up, for what plot there was, it was easy to work out the outcome. The father of Maya’s baby, was worked out by everyone very early on and there was constant reminders of how evil men are throughout. Although maybe the author tried to balance this out by adding Sera’s monster-in-law!
All of the characters were depressed, and even the nasty characters were not hated by the majority, as they just never felt real to us. Too many characters popped in, and back out, never to be seen again. The author should have spent more time developing the emotional traits for the main characters. The members were split over Maya, half found her pathetic and just didn't care what happened to her, others felt sorry for her and were desperate for her to speak out for justice. Freddy was the only character most of the group liked, it was a shame we never learnt more about him. Another character that we would have liked a little more of was the balloon seller. Overall though, no one had any aspirations or hope, which just left us feeling depressed and disengaged with the book.
Nothing really stood out apart from the contrast of how the different classes lived (in fairness the aim of the novel), and the misery. Violence was normal and everyone just accepted their fate without fighting!
It’s a shame the storyline was so predictable as the ending never really revealed any twists, causing some of the members to want Bhima to walk into the sea and not stop walking! We were upset that we didn't find out what happened to Maya, or that Sera didn't side with Bhima but the visual imagery the balloons gave us was a beautiful and very clever ending.
One of the members said that the book “could have been set anywhere”, and that is true, it didn't feel like India and wasn't vivid enough in comparison to other books set in beautiful /contrasted countries. The journalistic writing style came through and perhaps this is why the story lacked emotion, but the rhyming, double and local words became a pet hate. Although the group was split on this book, it’s doubtful we’d read anything by this author again, due to the lack of depth and description.
Sixteen members gave this book an average score of 5 out of 10, our lowest score 2 and our highest 8.5.

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