Health, Sports & Psychology

A reader's guide to The Inheritance of Loss

Updated Tuesday 1st May 2007

A tale of "comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness" ranging from New York to Nepal.

The Man Booker Prize for 2006 was won by Kiran Desai for her second novel, The Inheritance of Loss. At 35 she became the youngest female recipient of the award.

The panel’s head judge, Hermione Lee, enthused: "It is a magnificent novel of humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness."

Desai lived in India until she was 14. She and her mother, the writer Anita Desai, spent a year in Cambridge before moving to the U.S. The Inheritance of Loss is not an autobiography, but it does draw on Desai’s family history and her youth in India, and also reflects the hostility she encountered when trying to settle in a new country.

Gompa at Yamphudin in the foothills of Kanchenjunga Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Oilphant under CC-BY-NC-ND licence
Gompa at Yamphudin in the foothills of Kanchenjunga [Image: Oilphant under CC-BY-NC-ND licence]

She depicts life in two continents, ranging from existence in the foothills of the Himalayas to the experiences of illegal immigrants in New York.

The book conveys the lack of understanding between different cultures, exploring what can happen when western elements filter into a non-western country. Set mainly in the 1980s, there is a backdrop of political unrest.

A retired judge, dwelling at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga, takes in his orphaned granddaughter Sai. A romance develops between Sai and her tutor, Gyan. The judge’s cook has a son, Biju, who obtains a tourist visa to the U.S., but finds life in New York problematic.

Desai has said that she sees everything "through the lens of being Indian". She has explained that her novel’s title "speaks of little failures, passed down from generation to generation".

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

How to damp a wobbly bridge Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Video
5 mins
What do you know about living with a learning disability? Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license activity icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

What do you know about living with a learning disability?

What do you know about life with a learning disability? What aspects of life are similar and which can be more challenging?

Activity
Physical activity: a family affair Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Cade Martin/Getty Images free course icon Level 3 icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Physical activity: a family affair

This free course, Physical activity: a family affair, aims to explore the effects that the family has on the amount and nature of physical activity a child participates in. The beliefs and behaviours of the family environment are the key psycho-social factors we investigate here.

Free course
15 hrs
Today's ancient pharmacists Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Today's ancient pharmacists

The pharmaceutical-rich shelves of modern Western chemists and hospitals filled with sophisticated technologies seem far removed from the home remedies and medicines of the past, but are modern medical technologies really so different? Discover today's ancient pharmacists.

Article
Personal Best: Persistence Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Personal Best: Persistence

OU sports academic Jessica Pinchbeck and athletes talk about developing 'grit' to overcome adversity and progress towards a goal.

Video
OU on the BBC: African School - About The Series Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

OU on the BBC: African School - About The Series

Introducing a documentary programme about a school in Africa.

Article
Eva Ning's story Creative commons image Icon KBS / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Eva Ning's story

Explore the personal side of climate change with Eva Ning's diary entry.

Article
A reader's guide to The Line Of Beauty Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

A reader's guide to The Line Of Beauty

Set against a 1980s backdrop, a young man climbs the social ladder and becomes intimate with the powerful.

Article
Introducing practical healthcare video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Introducing practical healthcare

This course will help you develop your knowledge and skills for a deeper understanding of healthcare practice.

Video