Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

Yet another book that I liked but didn't love. There were times when I found it hard to go back to - there was never, for me, any drive to see what happened next.

The book takes a curiously meandering approach to the English under siege in Krishnapur. Maybe that's what a siege is like - long days of nothing, followed by attacks, followed by more nothing, all the while slowly running out of food and people.

The Siege of Krishnapur also takes long detours into late-Victorian fads and theories, including phrenology and the causes of cholera. (For the record, Dr. McNab is right.)

But it is a good look at the inexorable decline of a group under intense pressure, and is bookended by the opposing journeys of two of the main characters - the Collector, who starts out believing fully in English civilization and its gadgets, and ends up losing his faith both in Empire and in civilization itself; and Fleury, who initially believes that all the emphasis on things and gadgets and creation obscures the true wonders of the universe, and ends up believing he can invent almost anything to keep him alive in combat (although, notably, none of his gadgets work.)

If you need drive to your books, and something to make you keep turning the page, this is probably not the book for you. But if you don't mind a good meander, The Siege of Krishnapur has many subtle delights.

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