a bad character

I gave this book 3 / 5 Stars


My boyfriend died when I was twenty-one. His body was left lying broken in the highway out of Delhi while the sun rose in the desert to the east. I wasn’t there, I never saw it. But plenty of others saw, in the trucks that passed by without stopping, and from the roadside dhaba where he’d been drinking all night.

Then they wrote about him in the paper. Twelve lines buried in the middle pages, one line standing out, the last one, in which a cop he’d never met said to the reporter, He was known to us, he was a bad character.

This is the story of Idha, a young woman who finds escape from the arranged marriage and security that her middle-class world has to offer through a chance encounter with a charismatic, dangerous young man. She is quickly exposed to the thrilling, often illicit pleasures that both the city, Delhi, and her body can hold. But as the affair continues, and her double life deepens, her lover’s increasingly unstable behaviour carries them past the point of no return, where grief, love and violence threaten to transform his madness into her own.

A stunning novel about female desire, A Bad Character shows us a Delhi we have not seen in fiction before: a city awash with violence, rage and corruption


My Review:

An interesting book, I enjoyed reading most of it, but felt if was very depressing.  

The life of Idha started with her feeling different to what she felt she should have been, and it went downhill from there.  

The name Idha appears only once in the book and I was unsure that this was her name, also her lover’s name is never used, almost as if they are the anonymous and nameless with equally unchartered lives. 

She is a person who is tortured by living in a modern Delhi, never fitting in or meeting the traditional values and expectations of her Aunty who she lives with after her mother dies and her father abandons her.

Feeling apart from the expected of her in Indian culture she could not identify with the good Indian girl who was dutiful, respectful and understood that a good marriage was the most important thing in life.  Instead she chooses to live a modern life that transcends the rational, is secret and indulgent in experiences with a man who introduces her to every part of it. There was an absolute hopelessness to the way she continues blindlessly with progressing events.

I loved how Kapoor has a deep understanding of people and words.  There is a part when she talks of her grandfather whom she met when he was already old having survived as a religious man, 

‘..but I understood nothing of him then, and by that time God had already left him in the corner of the room, like a lamp without a bulb, gathering dust’. 

It describes perfectly how she viewed the world around her.  

She is skilful in matching our understanding of repressing the things we wish never to remember, with her words 

“I buried the words inside me where they lived on, like a splinter over which the skin has regrown.”

This is a novel of self destruction in which Idha rushes through life with total lack of care and is echoed in the comparison that she is driving through the city at speed. It felt almost like a car crash waiting to happen. 

The wild passion for experiencing excitement cannot last alone, and they become involved with drink and drugs to keep it going which is the unravelling of their relationship.  Towards the end of the book and seemingly having lost any respect for herself she becomes the possession of a business man without morals. 

The apparent suicide of her first lover cuts her deeply and she revisits his house, his friends, and their places but she finds no solace.  This book has brilliant descriptions of Delhi, places, people, life and corruption, but there is so much of it I could hardly take it all in. 

One thing I dislike is that Kapoor uses acronyms throughout the book and I had no idea what they all mean.

Then ending felt as meaningless as her life.  She drives off somewhere.

However, the writing is thorough and effective with some wonderful descriptions, but for me it was a little too descriptive to follow. 


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Many thanks to RandomHouse Publishers for a copy of this book via NetGalley for an honest review.

Print Length: 241 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0670087335
Publisher: Vintage Digital

Published:  (7 Aug 2014)