Summary and book reviews of Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Ghachar Ghochar

by Vivek Shanbhag

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag X
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Feb 2017, 128 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

Book Summary

For readers of Akhil Sharma, Mohsin Hamid, and Teju Cole, a haunting, masterly novel about a family splintered by success in rapidly changing India.

A young man's close-knit family is nearly destitute when his uncle founds a successful spice company, changing their fortunes overnight. As they move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house on the other side of Bangalore, and try to adjust to a new way of life, allegiances realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Things become "ghachar ghochar" - a nonsense phrase uttered by one of the characters that comes to mean something tangled beyond repair, a knot that can't be untied. Elegantly written and punctuated by moments of unexpected warmth and humor, Ghachar Ghochar is a quietly enthralling, deeply unsettling novel about the shifting meanings - and consequences - of financial gain in contemporary India.

One

Vincent is a waiter at Coffee House. It's called just that—Coffee House. The name hasn't changed in a hundred years, even if the business has. You can still get a good cup of coffee here, but it's now a bar and restaurant. Not one of those low-lit bars with people crammed around tables, where you come to suspect that drinking may not be such a wholesome activity after all. No, this place is airy, spacious, high-ceilinged. Drinking here makes you feel cultured, sophisticated. The walls are paneled in wood to shoulder height. Old photographs hang on the sturdy square pillars in the center of the room, showing you just how beautiful this city was a century ago. The photographs evoke a gentler, more leisurely time, and somehow Coffee House still manages to belong to that world. For instance, you can visit at seven in the evening when it's busiest, order only a coffee and occupy a table for two hours, and no one will object. They seem to know that someone who ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The narrator is a regular customer at Coffee House. What draws him there?
  2. What is your opinion of the narrator? Is he as hapless as he portrays himself to be? Why does he alone remain nameless?
  3. Why didn't the narrator's relationship with Chitra work out? Would he have married a woman like Anita if he had met her by chance rather than by arrangement?
  4. Why is Chikkappa so generous to the rest of the family? Does his behavior set the tone for the household?
  5. What was Chikkappa's relationship with Suhasini, do you think?
  6. Why is Appa ambivalent about the family's new wealth? If he were to become "ruinously entangled in some philanthropic enterprise" (p. 23), what might the rest of the family do to prevent his giving away...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Brilliantly translated by Srinath Perur, Ghachar Ghochar is a finely narrated epic in every way – it’s a slim novel that packs a punch and is a true heavyweight in all the ways that matter.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (685 words).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A compact novel that crackles with tension, tracing the tangled path of a family's dissolution in their sudden rise to wealth.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Shanbhag has been a prolific writer in his native South Indian language of Kannada for decades, but this firecracker of a novel is the first of his work to be translated into English. Absorbing, insightful, and altogether a wonderful read.

Business Standard (India)
Ghachar Ghochar is one of the most striking novels you'll read this decade... In Shanbhag's hands, the Indian family is revealed in layers; as one layer peels away, what lies beneath is left raw and exposed.

The Hindu (India)
This is a superb novel, unsettling and even claustrophobic ... but also moving and genuinely funny.

The Hindustan Times (India)
Very rarely a book comes along that you want to thrust in the hands of everyone - readers and non-readers. Ghachar Ghochar is one such book.

The Indian Express (India)
Altogether a delight to read ... Shanbhag gives us an insider's feel for the concerns that have shaped the middle class in the last half a century.

Mint (India)
An ingenious tale of how material wealth robs a family of its moral fortitude ... [Shanbhag] is obviously a master of the form.

The Navhind Times (India)
Truly a must-read.

Author Blurb Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City
Vivek Shanbhag is an Indian Chekhov.

Author Blurb Pankaj Mishra
One of the best novels to have come out of India in recent decades.

Author Blurb Garth Greenwell, National Book Award longlisted author of What Belongs to You
In this exquisitely observed, wry and moving novel, the smallest detail can conjure entire worlds of feeling. Vivek Shanbhag is a writer of rare and wonderful gifts.

Author Blurb One of my favorite contemporary writers in English translates one of the leading figures of Kannada literature. The result is mesmerizing, distressing - and altogether brilliant.
Karan Mahajan, National Book Award longlisted author of The Association of Small Bombs

Author Blurb Yiyun Li, author of Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life
Vivek Shanbhag is one of those writers whose voice takes your breath away at the first encounter. Ghachar Ghochar presents life and its undercurrents with limpid prose and quiet insight.

Author Blurb Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire
Tenderly alert to the new passions and disappointments of a 'rising' bourgeoisie, and handling its complex material with brilliant artistic economy, Ghachar Ghochar is one of the best novels to have come out of India in recent decades.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Joint Family in India

Joint Family GraphicIn Ghachar Ghochar, the narrator lives in a joint family, and it is really this sociological unit that has been the mainstay of Indian life for centuries.

A joint family is defined as a unit of extended members of a family all living together under one roof, who also cook and eat together. Usually driven by patriarchal order, the patriarch and his wife and sons and their wives and children and so on form one group. A joint family is compared to socialism where each contributes according to ability and takes according to need. One of the common negatives against a joint family, is that it contributes to people being slackers. The narrator in Ghachar Ghochar for example, simply mooches off the family's collective earnings without ...

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