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JulieM

JulieM

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The Shadow Lines: A Novel

The Shadow Lines - Amitav Ghosh Last night I was watching an episode of Lost, and as usual with this TV series, I was confused about what was going on. Is this the past? the future? reality or a flashback? And all of a sudden I realized that I have the same muddled confusion over this book. The story is about a Bengali boy and follows his life from a child in Calcutta, through a college education in England and returning home to India. It is definitely set in a turbulent time period, from post World War II, through the India/Pakistan partition, to the late 20th century. I enjoyed many of the issues covered in this book - people getting displaced by Partition, living as a foreigner in another country and racial and religious bigotry. But the style of writing made reading this book feel like work instead of pleasure. The story is told as a young man's reminisence of his past, so some of the jumping around makes sense. But I found Ghosh's sentence structure incredibly difficult to read. Here is a single sentence:That wasn't surprising, for my grandmother's contempt for the Sheheb had nothing to do with drink at all, as my father thought: it was founded on the same iron fairness which prompted her, when she became headmistress, to dismiss one of her closest friends - a good-natured but chronically lazy woman - from her job in the school: at bottom she thought the Shaheb was not fit for his job, that he was weak, essentially weak, backbone-less; it was impossible to think of him being firm under threat, of reacting to a difficult or dangerous situation with that controlled, accurate violence which was the quality she prized above all others in men who had to deal with matters of state. pg. 144 OK - that's 9 commas, 2 colons, 1 semi-colon, and 2 dashes. I'm glad I never had to diagram that sentence!