Okay, I lied a bit when I said I wouldn’t be updating for a while. We have free airport wifi and I finished reading The Glass Castle while I was waiting for my boyfriend to finish up work and our friend to drive us to the airport.
This is really a fantastic, sprawling epic of a book. It begins in 1885 when Rajkumar, a poor orphan of a boy living in Mandalay and working in Ma Cho’s food stall, catches a glimpse of a girl, attendant to Queen Supayalat. He falls in love with her in that instant, and years later, sets off to find her, still living in exile in Ratnagiri with the former King and Queen of Burma. The story follows their family, and the families of their friends and relatives, but it is also a story of the histories of the three countries: Malaya, Burma, and India, and the ways in which colonization and the mingling of different cultures has affected them.
The book covers over a hundred years briskly: it begins in 1885 and ends around 1996. Somehow, the transitions seem seamless, even though the various branches of each family don’t always get the same amount of time accorded to them that you might wish. And it goes without saying that with everything going on (from the beginning with the British invasion of Mandalay, to World War II and the invasion of the Japanese) not all of these stories end happily. I think it’s a testament to Ghosh’s ability that even though the book moves at such a quick pace, each of the characters are their own distinct people, and you grieve for them and with them, grow with them–because many of them grow and change along with the upheaval surrounding them.
This is not a history book, but it is deeply concerned with history. But, above all, it begins and ends with the love between two people–the smallest of consolations in a mad world.