Written in a dream-like prose, the narrator tells the story of his family to a sleeping infant, the child of his dead sister. What emerges are tales of horror, yet told with a tenderness that fuels the hypnotic effect of the story. I thought about it long after I finished.
Brilliant writing, with an ending that blows the doors off.
The Blue Bedspread has earned Raj Kamal Jha endless comparisons to Raymond Carver. And his first novel does tell a Carver-esque tale, in which poverty-stricken family members love and torment one another in the privacy of their home. Father drinks; mother is an absence; sister and brother find solace in each other. In addition, his voice is that unsettling combination--affectless and passionate--that characterizes the best of Carver's writing. These are writers who state plainly the difficult things people do to one another.
But while Carver gave us the dead reaches of the American West, Jha's novel is set in Calcutta. And it's thrilling to read about India in this new voice that is cool, concise, and beautifully observed, as opposed to the florid, expressive writing that has come to typify this nation. Jha has chosen a neat narrative device for his tale. An unnamed man receives a call in the night. His beloved but estranged sister has died in childbirth. The baby's adoptive parents are due the next day to take the infant away. All night long, this lonely man stays up writing the history of his family, the history of the dead baby's mother.
The revelations--abuse, incest--would be shocking if they weren't written with such careful tenderness. The man writes about how his sister finally left their childhood home: "In a way, it was essential that one of us should leave never to return. It saved both of us the discomfort and the pain of sitting together as adults and talking about everything except those nights on the blue bedspread, that July night on the blue bedspread, moments that were key to our survival and yet better left untouched and unsaid." Jha even throws in a little redemption for these sad characters, and we're all grateful for the relief. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
a little strange, very imaginative writing.
I enjoy Indian fiction, and this did not disappoint. A good glimps into the culture, and a story that drew me in.