Jeet Thayil – Narcopolis

This is not a review. This is what I felt after I not-so-hurriedly finished Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis.

I ordered this book from Flipkart in October. This was following lots of news coverage talking about the Indian author’s work being long listed (and then shortlisted) for the Booker prize. But the push came from my grandmother again, because she wanted to read it and I had a gift coupon from Flipkart lying around in my inbox.

The copy I have has a very interesting cover art. It doesn’t tell you whether its a serious novel, a piece of fiction, a graphic novel (yes yes, I thought about each of them before ordering it). Once I started reading it I could make out the drawings being of smoke (from Opium, in this case) which slowly transforms into a couple’s body -wrapped in each other. I still like the cover art a lot.

I can’t seem to find the same emotion for the book though.

The story mainly revolves around an opium den in the 70’s Mumbai. The narrator meets Dimple – a eunuch and a sex-worker (that’s a first. I have never really read a book where the eunuch plays such a strong and central character) who works with Rashid -the owner of the opium house. As you read, you listen to each of them talking about their journey through life, religion, tolerance and taboo, sex and intoxication. There is a little serial killer mystery thrown in as well.

It is a good book. Yes. But the sentences are too long. And I prefer long sentences once in a while in a book. Not every sentence. That is one complain I had while reading it. Also the fact that the characters suddenly started to sound similar to me. Might be my fault though. I kept becoming inattentive in between. In parts I would be hooked to the book, while in some other chapters I would read the same paragraph several times over without getting anything out of it.

Maybe, it just wasn’t something I was in the mood for. But by the end of it, I wasn’t sure if I supported its entry into the shortlist.

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