Saturday, March 14, 2009

Q & A by Vikras Swarup

This is my Leo, who disappeared about two years ago. I still miss the grinchy, loving ball of fluff. :(

The improbably named Ram Mohammed Thomas has just become the first big winner on India's new quiz show: Who Wants to Win a Billion. Unfortunately, people think he has cheated _ what could a lowly bar man possibly know to win a billion rupees?

What indeed.

At the beginning of the book, Ram is being interrogated by the police, being pressured into admitting he cheated. It turns out that the somewhat dodgy producers of the show don't actually have a billion rupees right then and there and weren't anticipating a big winner when the series has just begun. So it's in their best interests to prove that Ram cheated.

He is in for a very long night, when a young woman, a lawyer, arrives at the station to rescue him.

However, she needs to know the real story if she's going to go into bat for him. Armed with a DVD of the show, Ram takes her through each question _ how and why he knew each of the answers.

Q & A is excellent. Divided into chapters denoted by the amount of money on the line at the time, we hear about snippets of Ram's life _ what he was doing and where he was at the time he inadvertently learned the answers to the questions. The book is set in part in Mumbai, Agra, and possibly Delhi, although I admit my timelines did get a little skewed as the chapters aren't linear. They go back and forth from Ram's very early childhood and dreams abot his absentee mother through to the present.

We learn a lot about Ram's background but not really a lot about Ram himself. He's almost a cypher in a way _ a shadow of sorts as he goes from terrible orphanage to working for a fading Bollywood star, to being a "guide" at the Taj Mahal.

There is terrible poverty, and shocking suffering, but one thing that does come through from Ram's character is his determination to make things better for himself, to get the girl of his dreams and to live on his terms.

And there were a couple of very satisfying twists at the end.

The story is extremely well-told and in the copy I have from the library there are questions of the author at the back; for book clubs, I assume. I didn't read all of them, but skimmed them very quickly. One fact did stand out: apparently Vikras Swarup didn't tell anyone he was writing a book. He pretty much toiled away for two years in secret.

And wow ... what a book.

Very, very highly recommended.

Also reviewed here:


Ana S. said...

Aw, poor Leo :(

Q&A does sound excellent. I really want to read it, and then watch the movie.

Maree said...

Thanks Nymeth. He was one of my favourites :(
I did it the wrong way around; usually I like to read the book first too, but it was out of the library to start with.

Louise said...

I am also going to read this one soon AND I am going to see the movie which is definitely the talk of the town in Copenhagen these days. Great review.

Unknown said...

I loved this book too!

My review is here: