Book Review: The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell
WEN reading club meet every month
It was the first time that I had been to a book group (You might suggest I needed to get out more often... which is exactly what I did and really enjoyed the night) and I have to say that I would not have ended up reading this title to completion if I hadn't read it with the purpose of sharing it with a group of unknown strangers. (Who I can now confirm were very welcoming, diverse group and good company.)
What I most enjoyed about the story were the moments that Farrell conveys with such intensity and conviction; the claustrophobia and decay that permeates the very foundations of their community and engulfs Lucy entirely until she becomes a mass of seething black flies - a particularly well conveyed and realised moment in the novel for us all. An omniscient narrator provides some form of social comment or opinion on these characters and this is a challenging element of the siege.
The narrator conveys their misery and wretched end but avoids a moral tale or sense of pathos for the characters created. In this sense Farrell took some risks in exposing these characters; showing no sympathy for the colonialists as the siege tears them apart with carrion, pestilence and decay, we suspect this is representative of how Farrell felt about some aspects of the Victorian existence. We see the Victorians as they suffer and melt in the heat and fury of their trials and sense that Farrell enjoys their fall with gusto.
The Siege is a complex story and it’s a tribute to the novel that as I write I find that I could continue endlessly to try to encapsulate the very varied and paradoxical nature of the text. It is comedic, hilarious and implausible - something that would seem to jar with the very bleak content and essence of the story; the siege. It is also a comment on an age, situation and a historical satire. Some remind me of Candide by Voltaire in its satirical and relentless tone. Some of the group noted that elements of Farrell's style provoke comparison to Louis De Bernieres' as he weaves a splendid and hyperbolic story; at the height of the narrative there are moments that are glorious and are testament to the power of Farrell's expression and the sheer quality of his writing.
Next meeting: June 29th: The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis.
June 16, 2010