Q & A by Vikas Swarup
|Q & A by Vikas Swarup|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Becky Hazlett|
|Summary: Q & A is brilliantly executed but for those after greater depth of character and psychology, well, they would be better off looking elsewhere. Is the whole story plausible? It is certainly contrived but who cares? That's not the point; this is an original fantastic fairytale, and wildly entertaining, shocking, amusing, and witty. You won't be bored.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: February 2006|
|Publisher: Black Swan|
Q & A is the book which inspired the multi award-grabbing blockbuster, Slumdog Millionaire, and a change of title is not the only difference between the two. If you've seen the film or even heard of it, and who hasn't, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the book is also a love story. It isn't. And although it does have love in it, it is primarily a story of survival of the underdog.
The novel is set in India and the protagonist's name, Ram Mohammed Thomas, encapsulates three of the main religions of India, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, thereby setting him up as an Everyman figure. He wins the Indian version of the quiz, Who wants to be a Millionaire, and is promptly arrested because it is not possible for a poor street kid to know the answers to all the questions unless he was cheating, right? Ram maintains that he simply knew the answers and that to understand how, one must know his entire life. The novel is structured around the game show; each chapter of Ram's life relates to each question and reveals how he gained the knowledge to give the correct answer. It's a great premise for a novel and my expectations were not disappointed.
Ram is an orphan who begins life being brought up by a priest and then, due to unfortunate circumstances, has to move to an orphanage where he meets his best friend, Salim. The two of them are then selected by a mysterious benefactor to come and live with him, sparking a chain of events which takes our heroes all around India. Ram and Salim find themselves in some tight spots as they go about the business of surviving but they always manage to stay one step ahead. It is their streetwise resourcefulness which the reader can't help but admire.
Unlike the neat film adaptation, the episodes of Ram's life don't occur in chronological order. Swarup is adept at weaving the different strands of the plot together and it is testament to his skill that the reader does not get confused as the novel jumps about in time. There are one or two instances (which I won't spoil), where some loose ends in the plot are beautifully tied up, that border on the sublime!
The novel raises questions about what constitutes knowledge and luck. Ram lives his nomadic life literally by the toss of a coin, as emphasised by the chaotic structure. There is a Carnival atmosphere: status and assets are not fixed, appearances can be deceiving, and anything is possible as demonstrated by many a reversal of fortune.
Q & A is so visual, vivid and teeming with life like a New Delhi bazaar, that it is no wonder it was chosen to be made into a film; you get a fantastic sense of place. The first person narrative draws you in and takes you on an action-packed adventure. Along the way you'll encounter a parade of different characters including gay priests, crippled beggars, Bollywood actors and actresses, gangsters, perverts, prostitutes, police, and even an Australian Defence attaché. It is extremely readable, funny, and absorbing. This novel blends comedy and tragedy; instances of light-heartedness are often juxtaposed with those of extreme violence. Be prepared to become personally acquainted with India's dark underworld. The novel is, at times, grim and cruel, after all, the life of a penniless orphan is a tough one and the novel pulls no punches in this respect.
Q & A is brilliantly executed but for those after greater depth of character and psychology, well, they would be better off looking elsewhere. Is the whole story plausible? It is certainly contrived but who cares? That's not the point; this is an original fantastic fairytale, and wildly entertaining, shocking, amusing, and witty. You won't be bored.
You can read more book reviews or buy Q & A by Vikas Swarup at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Q & A by Vikas Swarup at Amazon.com.
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