Book Review: Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

Title: Narcopolis
Author: Jeet Thayil
Publisher: Faber and Faber, Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0571283071
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil is a book that doesn’t leave you till you have finished it. It is not only a disturbing read, but also highly intense. It captures all elements of Bombay, who is coincidentally the hero or heroine of the story, which is what I loved the most about the novel. Bombay is the protagonist as it always is – harsh, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter, sometimes cunning and sometimes giving, and the action of the book is set here, for its characters to play on this wide canvas, to let their emotions and feelings take a different turn altogether.

Narcopolis is everything you imagined but were too scared to say it out aloud – blue smoke, drugs, opium drug dens, heroin and Bombay at the heart of it all – the glitter of the city juxtaposed with its bleakness, its gutters and its diseases of race, class, religion, violence and death.

Amidst all this is Dimple and this is her heart-breaking tale. Dimple is a eunuch and her story unfolds as does the story of the city and then there is also the enigmatic Mr. Lee from China who lends a totally different approach to the story. The story takes you on a roller-coaster ride – and sometimes the funny part is, you don’t know which turn is going to come next. Bombay has various aspects to it as a city and Mr. Thayil has beautifully explored each and every one of its aspect.

The writing is packed with punches and more. It will not make you want to keep the book down at any point. At the same time you feel really bad when the book ends, because you don’t want it to. I remember Jeet Thayil reading poetry once at a book launch and I wondered why he didn’t write fiction. Now that he has, I am wondering when the next book will be out. All in all, Narcopolis is a great read and I would recommend it to all.


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