Between The Assassination
Free Press, 2008
1st Wednesday book for October 2012
About the book
This is a collection of short stories tied together by the location Kittur a fictional city in India. The book is set out like a travel guide for Kittur with information about the city's highlights followed by a story set near it.
I started this book before I went on holidays and was making good progress when I thought I should stop reading it because I didn't want to finish it too quickly. I didn't read it while I was away and so with 2 days until book club I had 250 pages to go. EEK!
Luckily, the book was quite easy to read and even with my excellent skills at procrastination I only had 10 pages to go at book club!! I think the fact that none of us knew much about the book had an effect on how the bookclubbers responded to the book.
I liked it... well I liked the concept of it. To have each story set around the "touristy" landmarks of a fictional city in India. It was like we were on a guided tour of the city, and then got up close with the locals... and isn't that what the best thing about travelling is? It was like the book was about the city rather than the characters.
I liked some of the stories, but over all I felt like everyone was in a hopeless situation. It may well be like that but surely there is always some hope that a situation can be improved. In some of the stories, such as the mosquito sprayer, he lost his hope through his own actions, but... surely not everyone is discontent? Although I guess the book does show how easily the good things gained can be lost, such as the story of the man who wanted to be a conductor on the buses. He achieved his goal, but is injured and can no longer work. I think that's what I really didn't like about the book, was that there was no happiness... or even a glimmer of a happy ending. Is life really like that for people?
I guess I am talking from an extremely privileged point of view. I have a good job, a roof over my head, food to eat and a wonderful group of friends. Sure I'm not married and I would like to be, but being single means that I am freer to catch up with people more often than married people might be. I admit I do get a bit frustrated when people I know focus on what they don't have instead of being thankful for all the good things they do have. When I compare my life to the lives of the characters in Between the Assassinations, I feel amazingly blessed. It was an accident that I was born in such a lucky country. The characters in this book have don't always have a place to sleep or food to eat. I can see why they would long for something more.
I think this differs a lot from the other Indian literature I've read - namely Q & A (aka Slumdog Millionaire) by Vikas Swarup and Family Matters and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is that there is hope that the characters will be able to get things that will make their lives easier. In A Fine Balance, there are two characters that suffer horribly but they continue to persevere in the hope that things will get better, while the more well of character can't take it as well. Now that was an amazing book, I highly recommend it.