Book Review: Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh

Hamish Hamilton Published June 6th, 2019 288 Pages

Bundook. Gun. A common word, but one which turns Deen Datta’s world upside down.

A dealer of rare books, Deen is used to a quiet life spent indoors, but as his once-solid beliefs begin to shift, he is forced to set out on an extraordinary journey; one that takes him from India to Los Angeles and Venice via a tangled route through the memories and experiences of those he meets along the way.

There is Piya, a fellow Bengali-American who sets his journey in motion; Tipu, an entrepreneurial young man who opens Deen’s eyes to the realities of growing up in today’s world; Rafi, with his desperate attempt to help someone in need; and Cinta, an old friend who provides the missing link in the story they are all a part of. It is a journey which will upend everything he thought he knew about himself, about the Bengali legends of his childhood and about the world around him.- Goodreads

An extremely well thought out and beautifully written book. The author holds no punches when writing about the culture and describing the tale that drives the book.

What I loved about the book was Deen’s search for the truth about a tale that is passed down from generation to generation in India. This tale is so ingrained in Deen’s life that his obsession over it makes sense. The way it is described is that it is one of those tales that you are told to as a child through the local storyteller and it is a tale that keeps circling back generation after generation so it never loses steam.

The tale itself isn’t anything spectacular and as much as I would love to tell you more about it, I can’t. It would be spoiling parts of the novel. Anyway, the reason for my obsession and Deen’s as well, is the thought that there are physical objects/historical facts that make the story real. Its like finding out Superman actually existed and then finding out where he lived. I freaking loved this aspect of the book and it kept me going.

Although this novel is written beautifully and full of detail, it was long winded. Deen, himself, wasn’t that much of a likeable character and as I kept reading I realized that Deen didn’t really know a whole lot. Yes, he did the travels and gathered information but he lacked so much knowledge that I had to wonder, how is it that he can be a rare book dealer and have went to school specializing on storytelling and culture but knew almost nothing.

Another thing about this novel. . . there are a lot of subplots or themes that if you are not paying attention to you will miss. For instance, Deen’s views on Indian culture and their viewpoints in regards to religion. This is just one example but it is brief but powerful at the same time. Deen has a lot of things going on and the author explores each and everyone not necessarily leaving the reader with doubt but leaving them more with the question of do I want to know more about Deen or move on?

Overall, this a book you take your time on (the author makes sure of that). If you are looking for a tomb raider ish book, you’re not going to get it with this one. I enjoyed this book. Although the infamous tale that starts off this whole thing kept me reading, this book is not for everyone.

Oh! One more thing. I did not like the ending. It was too abrupt as if the author just looked at the page and decided he didn’t want to write anymore.

2 Pickles

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