Summary and book reviews of The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The Inheritance of Loss

by Kiran Desai

The Inheritance of Loss
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2006, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga lives an embittered old judge who wants to retire in peace, then his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. When a Nepalese insurgency in the mountains causes their lives to descend into chaos, they too are forced to confront their colliding interests. Winner of the 2006 Booker Prize.

Published to extraordinary acclaim, The Inheritance of Loss heralds Kiran Desai as one of our most insightful novelists. She illuminates the pain of exile and the ambiguities of postcolonialism with a tapestry of colorful characters: an embittered old judge; Sai, his sixteen-year-old orphaned grand­daughter; a chatty cook; and the cook’s son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one miserable New York restaurant to another, trying to stay a step ahead of the INS.

In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga lives an embittered old judge who wants to retire in peace, then his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep.

When a Nepalese insurgency in the mountains threatens Sai’s new-sprung romance with her handsome tutor, their lives descend into chaos. The cook wit­nesses India’s hierarchy being overturned and discarded. The judge revisits his past and his role in Sai and Biju’s intertwining lives. A story of depth and emotion, hilarity and imagination, The Inheritance of Loss tells “of love, longing, futility, and loss that is Desai’s true territory” (O: The Oprah Magazine).

One

All day, the colors had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water crea­ture across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths. Briefly visible above the vapor, Kanchenjunga was a far peak whittled out of ice, gathering the last of the light, a plume of snow blown high by the storms at its summit.

Sai, sitting on the veranda, was reading an article about giant squid in an old National Geographic. Every now and then she looked up at Kanchenjunga, observed its wizard phosphorescence with a shiver. The judge sat at the far corner with his chessboard, playing against himself. Stuffed under his chair where she felt safe was Mutt the dog, snoring gently in her sleep. A single bald lightbulb dangled on a wire above. It was cold, but inside the house, it was still colder, the dark, the freeze, con­tained by stone walls several feet deep.

Here, at the back, inside the cavernous kitchen, was the cook, trying to light the damp wood. He ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The Inheritance of Loss is preceded by a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Given what you know of Borges, why do you think Kiran Desai chose his work as an epigraph? Who are “the ambitious . . . the loftily covetous multitude”? Why are they “worthy of tomorrow”? Who is “I”?

  2. The first evening that Sai was at Cho Oyu, “she had a fearful feeling of having entered a space so big it reached both backward and forward” (p. 34). Discuss this observation. Could this be a description of the novel itself?

  3. Discuss the terms globalization and colonialism. What does it mean to introduce an element of the West into a country that is not of the West, a person from a poor nation into a wealthy one? What ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

    Man Booker Prize
    2006

  • award image

    National Book Critics Circle Award
    2006

Reviews

Media Reviews

The Washington Post - Donna Rifkind

Her keen appreciation of contradiction enriches the book, and, if the integrity of her narrative is less than perfect, the integrity of her ideological convictions is absolute.

New Yorker

Briskly paced and sumptuously written, the novel ponders questions of nationhood, modernity, and class, in ways both moving and revelatory.

The New York Times - Pankaj Mishra

Kiran Desai's extraordinary new novel manages to explore, with intimacy and insight, just about every contemporary international issue: globalization, multiculturalism, economic inequality, fundamentalism and terrorist violence.

Library Journal

She fails to get readers to connect and identify with the characters, much less care for them. The story lines don't run together smoothly, and the switching between character narratives is very abrupt.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This stunning second novel ... alternately comical and contemplative ...Desai deftly shuttles between first and third world.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Starred Review. In her second novel, Desai is even more perceptive and bewitching....Desai imaginatively dramatizes the wonders and tragedies of Himalayan life and, by extension, the fragility of peace and elusiveness of justice, albeit with her own powerful blend of tenderness and wit.

Reader Reviews

Gabrielle Renoir-Large

A Luminous, but Melancholy Book
It’s hard for me to say whether Kiran Desai’s second novel, the 2006 Man Booker winner, "The Inheritance of Loss," is panoramic or intimate. On one hand, it stretches from northern India to New York City to England, yet on the other, it ...   Read More

srinivas

natural aspects in kirarn desai
It is real enjoyable and at the same time it an inspiration for the literary students. The thing is that she frankly pointed out so many issues in a brief manner; how the beauty of nature gives an immensely powerful feelings with intensity.

Kari Nelson

Disjointed
An interesting read, but the storylines did not flow smoothly together, making it difficult for the reader to invest in the characters.

Vimal Khawas

Kalimpong: An Inheritance of Loss!
Vimal Khawas As a fellow local of Kalimpong, I was compelled to get hold of Kiran Desai’s ‘Inheritance of Loss’ that came into limelight after it clinched through the Booker Prize, 2006. Several reviews in national dailies, reputed magazines and ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Conflict in the 1980s: The area around Darjeeling in North East India (map) is populated primarily by Gorkhas (also known as Gurkhas) whose ancestors founded the Kingdom of Nepal; they have long wanted an independent state.  Massive violence broke out between 1986 and 1988 but was resolved with the establishment of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council within West Bengal.  Although some still push for statehood rather than autonomy, it seems there is not the political will at this time to press on.  For example, there was a large rally in 2005 to revive the demand for a separate state but the issue did not more forward. 

Gurkhas take their name from the Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath.  The ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Inheritance of Loss, try these:

  • A Man Called Ove jacket

    A Man Called Ove

    by Fredrik Backman

    Published 2015

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Winner of the 2014 BookBrowse Debut Novel Award.

  • Map of the Invisible World jacket

    Map of the Invisible World

    by Tash Aw

    Published 2010

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    From the author of the internationally acclaimed, award-winning The Harmony Silk Factory comes an enthralling new novel that evokes an exotic yet turbulent and often frightening time and place. Map of the Invisible World is the masterly, psychologically rich tale of three lives indelibly marked by the past—their own and Indonesia's.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: All We Have Left
    All We Have Left
    by Wendy Mills
    September 11, 2001 is a date that few Americans will ever forget. It was on this day that our ...
  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.