The Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss

Book - 2006
Average Rating:
Rate this:
An embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace lives in a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge's cook watches over Sai distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another.
Publisher: New York :, Grove Press ;, Berkeley, Calif. :, Distributed by Publishers Group West,, [2006]
Copyright Date: ©2006
ISBN: 9780802142818
Branch Call Number: FIC DESA
Characteristics: 357 pages ; 21 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Feb 15, 2020

Takes place at the foot of Mount Kanchengua in the Himalayas. It’s about a judge, Jemubhai Patel, his orphaned granddaughter granddaughter, Sai, his cook, and the cook’s son, Bijou. Bijou lives inNYC and works at one dumpy restaurant to another depending on INS raids. The novelis set during an Indian-Nepali insurgency. Sai has a romantic relationship with her tutor, Gyan gets involved with the revolution and he and Sai become estranged until the end of the book. The story is centered on two main characters: Biju and Sai. Biju is an undocumented Indian immigrant living in the United States, son of a cook who works for Sai's grandfather. Sai is a girl living in mountainous Kalimpong with her maternal grandfather Jemubhai, the cook and a dog named Mutt. Desai switches the narration between both points of view. The action of the novel takes place in 1986.
The novel follows the journey of Biju, an undocumented immigrant in the US who is trying to make a new life; and Sai, an Anglicised Indian girl living with her grandfather in India. The novel shows the internal conflicts in India between groups, whilst showing a conflict between past and present. There is the rejection and yet awe of the English way of life, the opportunities for money in the US, and the squalor of living in India. Many leading Indians were considered to be becoming too English and having forgotten the traditional ways of Indian life, shown through the character of the grandfather, the retired Judge.
The major theme running throughout is one closely related to colonialism and the effects of post-colonialism: the loss of identity and the way it travels through generations as a sense of loss. Individuals within the text show snobbery at those who embody the Indian way of life and vice versa, with characters displaying an anger at the English Indians who have lost their traditions.
The Gorkhaland movement is used as a historic backdrop of the novel.
The retired judge Jemubhai Patel is a man disgusted at Indian ways and customs, so much so, that he eats chapatis with a knife and fork, hates all Indians including his father whom he breaks ties with and wife who he abandons at his father's place after torturing her, and is never accepted by the British in spite of his education and adopted mannerisms.

Aug 29, 2019

So disappointed... Such an amazing writing and a macabre plot with no hope in sight. Blech :) Filled with anger, misery and hatred. The unending drama has traumatized me. I would hope a writer has an obligation to his/her readers... to educate, to entertain, to enlighten, to help to find beauty and hope, etc. As a reader, I trust a writer to take care of me and my mental state. It's seems so easy and cheap just to pour gruesomeness - it always resonate and pages turn. Dear writers! Please write books that are deep, truthful, hopeful, and most of all bring light! :)

Sep 24, 2018

"Very unskilled at drawing borders, those bloody Brits." Reviewers who find this boring, depressing, too complex (That's a bad thing?), uneven, or lacking in an ending clearly know more than the Booker committee and the National Book Critics. And this is nowhere near stream of consciousness, as one reader ineptly points out. I found this a compelling, sweeping, and moving story that weaves together several storylines and moves back and forth between New York and a village in the Himalayas. Second novel from Kiran Desai, whose mother, Anita Desai, is also an acclaimed novelist.

Dec 20, 2017

I enjoyed parts of this novel, divided into two narratives - the granddaughter of a judge in the Himalayas and the son of their cook in New York City. It is set during the time of Nepali nationalism and anarchy in northern India. However, it is a little uneven and too long. It somewhat peters out at the end.

Nov 16, 2017

I completely agree with this comment, "I found it a little depressing, and a little boring. The ending.....well......what ending!"

WVMLStaffPicks Oct 26, 2014

In Kalimpong, at the foot of the Himalayas, a region disputed by India and Nepal, a retired Cambridge-educated judge, his orphaned grand-daughter, and his cook struggle with their cultural identity, modernization, and the ambiguities of post-colonialism. The winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize, this novel comes highly recommended.

If you like a complex plot line, overwhelming social injustice and individual hubris and stupidity then read this book. Tolstoy it is not. The author does not respect her readers, it feels like 1,000 pages of stream of consciousness writing bouncing between USA and India. This book was a challenge to my powers of concentration.

Sep 11, 2012

Started September 11, 2012 Finished October 4, 2012 (also read the 3 Prison Diaries by Jeffrey Archer in this time).......This book really didn't do a thing for me. (my sister either) I found it a little depressing, and a little boring. The ending.....well......what ending!

Jul 24, 2012

Both heavy and light at times, this book shows layer upon layer of life, loss, love, ambition, escape, denial, hatred, and almost every other emotion you can think of.

brianreynolds May 23, 2011

I was caught up in both the amazing prose and the intriguing intertwining stories: the Sisyphean struggle of love and comfort against culture and politics, the struggle for cultural identity and survival on a shrinking planet.

The title seemed almost a contradiction. But culture is truly our first and perhaps most precious inheritance, poignantly so in an age where the idea of "culture" itself, it could be argued, is on the verge of extinction. Cultures thrive in isolation. In a world that depends on immigration, illegal immigration, and displaced populations, "culture" becomes the villain in romance, the obstacle to success, the instigator of tragedy or, in this case, irony.

Kiran Desai makes the reader laugh and cry almost with the same sentence. The foibles of a retired judge, his granddaughter, his cook, and the cook's son are more than character flaws revealed in the turmoil of an insurgency. They are the inevitable cultural baggage we carry to our own detriment in our relations with others and our consolation when we oh so cautiously peer into the mirror.

Inheritance takes some effort especially on the part of the non-Indian/ non-Nepalese reader; Desai is not a connector of all the dots, but the reward for reading her is huge for anyone interested in the human condition, the human heart.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top