Review: Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

ghachar ghochar.pngThe Premise: a short novel about a family whose elevation from a cramped, unimpressive home to greater wealth and security brings more problems than they might have thought.

Thoughts: for such a slight novel (only 192 pages), there’s a lot brewing in Ghachar Ghochar, all dealt with in a brisk style yet somehow superbly developed. The narrator (unnamed, just to add to an ever-growing list of books that does this and thus makes my life difficult when it comes to reviewing) focuses on the different members of his family in a series of nuanced and subtle chapters, giving the reader a sense of really getting to know the various members of his believably peculiar family.

That’s all quite vague, isn’t it? The book begins with the narrator frequenting a coffee house and apparently desperate for guidance from a waiter, which is a fair indication of his general ennui – a feature repeated throughout, particularly in his barely-a-job occupation with the family business. It was this, combined with his wife’s astonished response upon discovering that the businessman she thought she had married was not entirely real, that brought Ghachar Ghochar to life for me. In an oddly Charlie and the Chocolate Factory way, the narrator and his wife share their home with his parents, uncle and sister, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere that creates tension and humour in equal measure; the section in which his mother bullies his uncle’s girlfriend on the doorstep was particularly entertaining.

In Conclusion: it’s a brief read but a really engaging and vibrant one. Ghachar Ghochar could have been twice the length and still just as entertaining and compelling, which is not something I would say about many books.

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