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The Impressionist    by Hari Kunzru order for
by Hari Kunzru
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2003 (2003)
Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A young mixed-race Indian learns early on that he can pass as white. As he works his way up in society, he must at various times come to terms with the lie he lives. He seems to succeed best at dissembling quickly, but this comes at the expense of his knowing who he really is.

This book, set in 1920s India, England and Africa, depicts both the high and low socioeconomic segments of those countries. Pran/Jonathan moves about in all areas, and the author demonstrates his deep knowledge of the various societies and cultures, no matter whether highly cultured or depraved. Especially skewered are the colonials, no matter in which country. Only one character is sympathetic, the wife of a zealot who has come to India to convert the natives to Christianity. She instead accepts the people as they are, tries to learn their language and succeeds where her husband cannot.

This is a story of high adventure written with humor. As Jonathan finds out, there is no magical solution to life's problems. The greatest success is to keep on living. Hari Kunzru has written an accomplished first novel of breathtaking scope, and readers will find much to ponder in it.

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