Posted in Books

Book Review: Baumgartner’s Bombay, by Anita Desai

About the author:
Anita Desai is a popular Indian author in English literature. Her novels Clear Light of Day, In Custody and Fasting, Feasting had been nominated for the Man Booker Prize and The Village by the Sea won the Guardian’s award for Children’s Fiction. Many awards have been conferred on her in a distinguished writing career, and that includes the Padma Shri from the Government of India.

My thoughts on the book:
Some books are such that we can’t say what attracted to us in the first place. Maybe it was just the title or the blurb at the back cover, or maybe just curiosity as well. One such book that recently came into my possession was this book.

The narration of Desai is direct, yet not direct, poignant but in a thoughtful way, descriptive in shortness. The character of Baumgartner is not appealing immediately, but we are taken on his journey wherein the character moves from a seemingly boring individual to something deeper. Here’s a guy, a kind old man whose life revolves around his many cats, so much so that he’s conferred the nickname “Billewala Pagal” by the locals, “The Cat Madman”. He’s observant, yet his thoughts far from the world. He’s like a creature of habit. It strangely reminded me of myself, the life of a writer who is lost in his world of words. The character of Lotte is more different, but similar. She’s not habit oriented, but seems to go off into her own world at times, more opposite to that of Hugo’s.

I could understand the character of Farrokh also, for I have seen and heard a guy like that.

What Desai does with this novel is take us on a journey through relationships and on an exploration of emotions.

The New York Times puts it simply as, “A daring colorful novel almost impossible to absorb in one reading.” I agree with that. I haven’t yet had the time for a second read, but the first one urges me to read it again soon. There are characters I can immediately relate to, even put myself in their shoes in a different way and wonder if this is fiction. If it is so, why am I relating with it so much?

It’s a novel that one may feel as slow, but if willing to stick to it, can be very satisfying a read.

A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book details:
Title: Baumgartner’s Bombay
Author: Anita Desai
Genre: Literary Fiction
ISBN: 9788184000146
Publisher: Random House India
Price: INR. 299


This book was given to me for review by Random House India. This is not a paid review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.

Shared with Indian Quills at Tales Pensieve.

(April 24th, 2013)