For the first fifteen years of his life, Pran Nath Razdan enjoyed a life of luxury. Living just down the river from the Taj Mahal and being worshipped as one of the most beautiful boys in India, he was able to do pretty much anything he wanted. That was, of course, until word began to spread about his true parentage…namely his father…his common, low-life English father. Suddenly the life he had known is taken from him as this “result of a one night stand” is cast out onto the street to fend for himself.
Thus begins Hari Kunzru’s first novel, The Impressionist. Written episodically, this narrative is the ultimate “coming of age” story. As Pran makes his journey of self-discovery, he ironically begins taking on other identities…becoming other people, in his effort to find who he truly is. Each section of this book is divided into the various personas, which Pran inhabits throughout his journey.
Although I loved the idea of The Impressionist, I felt the novel as a whole to be too ambitious. So many strong themes accompany this journey of self-discovery (class, race, colonialism, sex, belonging, and politics) that I often felt lost myself…just as confused about Pran’s story as he was. However, even though I had trouble connecting with the plot of The Impressionist, I do have to say that the writing is exquisite. Kunzru’s imaginative style adds so much to Pran’s story…and I feel it would have done more when it wasn’t weighed down with so much extra information.
NEXT WEEK: We all know that saying: “Less is more.” Next week, I’ll have you shaking in your boots in 30 seconds or less…
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.