Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Song of Kahunsha - Anosh Irani

The Basics: The Song of Kahunsha, Anosh Irani, 2006, 308 pages, hardcover, nominated for Canada Reads 2007

How I found it: I decided to read all of the Canada Reads books this year and this is the final one I read.

What's it about: This is Oliver Twist in Bombay. Ten year old Chamdi learns that his orphanage is about to close so he runs away and begins living on the streets of Bombay with two other children. He quickly learns the rules of the street. He becomes involved in a shady life of crime and soon looses his innocence. The book takes place on Chamdi's first 3 days on the streets.

Did I like it?: This is one of the more depressing books I have read in a while. I was aware of the extreme poverty among street people in South Asia, but this brought my awareness to a whole new level... a level that I perhaps didn't want to reach. The book is told from Chamdi's perspective and at times I was annoyed with is naivete and his constantly climbing onto the moral high horse in such a self-righteous way. Chamdi is meant to be a courageous character, but I found him a bit smug in his bravery and morals at times. Overall, it was an interesting book, but I can't say I enjoyed it that much. I also took issue with it being involved in Canada Reads. The author is now a Canadian, but there is nothing particularly Canadian about the book. I don't think it should have been excluded, I just think there may have been better choices that better reflected Canada. A book doesn't have to take place in Canada to feel Canadian... but to be Canadian I don't think it should feel 100% Indian.

Will you like it?: Do you like The Kite Runner, books by Wally Lamb, everything from Oprah's book club, and being profoundly depressed while reading a book? If so, this is a book for you. If not, you might want to skip it.

But don't take my word for it: The usual positive blurbs from, a positive reader review, a review from journalist Joe Wiebe's blog, one from the London Free Press, another from Blog Critics Magazine, one from the inaugural issue of Desi Lit, and a link to the book's page on this year's Canada Reads.

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