Professor Chandrasekhar left India when he was 24 and now holds the impressive title of Professor Emeritus in Economics at an Oxford College. Thwarted once again in his attempts to win the Nobel Peace prize, he is lamenting his situation when he is very inconveniently run over by a chap on a bicycle. This leads to him experiencing a silent heart attack and at a not-so-spritely 69, this event gives Professor Chandra a timely glimpse into his own mortality, and to realise that what he is doing with his life is perhaps not what he would want it to be if he had not survived the accident. Quite apart from that, he actually might have a good number of years left, and is he really living his best life? The short answer, is no.
Chandra’s long suffering ex-wife Jean has remarried and is living in Colorado with her new husband, along with Chandra’s youngest daughter Jaz. His son lives in China and his eldest daughter is refusing to speak to him, or indeed even let anyone else tell him where she is. Frustrated at being estranged from each of his children, be it through geography and/or family politics, he resolves to try and fix this situation and being told he must take a break from work to recover from his heart attack, he takes the bull by the horns and takes a sabbatical, heading off to LA, where it’s warm and sunny and he is at least on the same continent as (some of) his family.
Chandra is a complex character. He’s cranky, he’s selfish, he’s pompous and he has a HUGE ego – and disappointingly, he’s definitely repeated the mistakes of his father despite knowing what an impact they have had on him. He finds it very hard to see things from an alternative point of view and although he tries and tries, he repeatedly gets it wrong and manages to push those he is trying to get nearer to, further away. The other characters around Chandra are just as complex and multi-faceted, and at times you can feel the frustration leaping off the page because as hard as they try, they just cannot connect past the cultural and mental barriers they have erected to keep the other out.
This isn’t a fast paced book – it’s more gradual changes than an moment of epiphany; In a lot of ways it is a coming of age, a coming into the self, however at 69 it’s just happening at the other end of life.
I enjoyed this book but I felt it dragged a little as there was a lot of navel gazing although in many ways, this felt in tune with Chandra’s character. The writing is nice and flows well, and though it is a slow read, it builds nicely.
I read this book at The Pigeonhole, the online book club, in return for an honest review.