Thursday, September 12, 2013

'The Impressionist' by Hari Kunzru

12 September 2013

Hari Kunzru’s debut novel ‘The Impressionist’ was highly praised on its publication in 2002 and I the reviews made me keen to read it but for some reason it has taken me more than 10 years to get around to doing so. I wasn’t disappointed. ‘The Impressionist’ is an epic tale that starts in India in the early years of the 20th century and looks at empire, race and identity against a backdrop of real historical events. The use of comic characters and farcical plots set against extremely serious and often horrific history is carried off remarkably effectively. The tone of the book reminded me a lot of Matthew Kneale’s marvellous ‘English Passengers’. And ‘The Impressionist’ also had echoes of two other debut novels by contemporary British writers – David Mitchell’s ‘Ghostwritten’ with episodes in different settings, and with completely different sets of characters, linked by a single constant but evolving figure; and ‘White Teeth’ by Zadie Smith with its exploration of how Britain’s colonial past is evident in modern Britishness. ‘The Impressionist’ is a brilliant tour-de-force – well worth waiting for.



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