2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
A Black and White Life, by Bharath Veeraraghavan, is a book about Raman Venkat Iyer, the son of a rich man who retires with his father’s money at the age of 27 to do nothing until the vagaries of life cause him to change. It is a light novel, best classified as satire.
The narrator of the story is Raman Venkat Iyer who has no ambition as a child. As a he grows up, he remains content with coasting by and doing nothing, aided by copious amounts of marijuana and abetted by his friend Khan. His father is a successful businessman who pays the right people to ensure that Raman graduates from school. Upon his father’s death, Raman has no intention of running his father’s business and quickly sells it to the highest bidder and retires. Here the story might end, but it is, in fact, a beginning. We follow Raman’s life as he gets married and endures a variety of ups and downs in life, the details of which are best discovered while reading the book. The focus of the tale is the transformation that we see in Raman as the plot develops and time goes by. The plot is primarily the vehicle to carry the satire and humour forward and revealing more details would also reveal substantial spoilers.
The author manages to write an amusing and engaging book that is very easy to read. By throwing in amusing anecdotes and peppering the reader with irreverent and scathing asides about society and religion, the book kept my interest. It was a very easy book to return to and the characters were easy to relate to. The narrator’s aimlessness is also refreshing in a protagonist since those characters are typically Type-A personalities with large goals and responsibilities. While the novel certainly employs literary tropes, such as the faithful friend and sidekick (Khan), it does it well and meshes the trope seamlessly into the story.
One major issue I had with the book was with the pacing. While the anecdotes and rants were interesting, the larger plot’s progression was erratic. Nothing would happen for a great many chapters and then there would be a drastic time skip during which interesting events had occurred, especially towards the end of the book. It felt as though the author was trying to force the book to a pre-decided conclusion which was jarring for the reader who was used to the gentle, lilting pace used initially. Additionally, there was insufficient justification given for some of the larger decisions that were taken by Raman, especially in the context of what the reader is told about him.
I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. I laughed out loud at some of the jokes and enjoyed large sections of the book. However, towards the end, the book felt extremely rushed and forced, which substantially detracted from my experience. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy reading satirical novels which are more focused on humour than the plot. Bear in mind that there are pretty explicit mentions of drug and alcohol abuse and so this book is not for younger readers.
A Black and White Life
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like Anirudh Badri's review? Post a comment saying so!