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Old 6th Apr 2005, 19:30   #1
Mike
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Default V.S. Naipaul

A collection of unrelated essays on identity rather than a true novel this the 1971 Booker Winner was a strange read. I though there would be some connection between the first chapters and the large story in the middle that bears the novels name but I was wrong. The thrust of the short stories is the question of identity and race, the first two stories are concerned with immigrants to the USA and the UK though there is a prologue that concerns alienation form considered norms. Beautifully written indeed but the lack of relation to the chapters means one never really gets to know the characters so superbly written, we certainly never find out what happens so it’s a little disappointing on that score. The main story - In a Free State - concerns two colonialists still in an African country at the point of its independence and a car journey across the country. Its quite brilliant how the descriptive passages build the whole picture of a dangerous fledgling African state on the brink of civil war. But again instead of being a whole novel we get the extra essays on life as an immigrant that whilst very good add nothing to the main story. The Booker winner should really be viewed as a collection of superb short stories but I wouldn't rush out to buy it.
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