book cover of The Impressionist
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The Impressionist

(2002)
A novel by

 
 
Awards
Betty Trask Award Best First Novel
Whitbread Prize Best First Novel (nominee)
In his dazzling first novel, Hari Kunzru exhibits an uncommon mastery of both language and subject. Taking readers on a whirlwind tour of the first half of the 20th century, Kunzru reveals his story through Pran Nath Razdan, a half-Indian, half-English boy, who is disowned by his high-caste family when they learn the truth of his parentage. Accustomed to the living in the lap of luxury and woefully unqualified to care for himself, Pran, now wholly alone, is forced to reinvent himself in his struggle to survive.

Desperate for food, Pran has one thing of value, his highly sought-after light skin, and he finds himself a hostage in a brothel, clothed in women's garb, drugged, and forced to assume the role of a sacrificial pawn in a game between colony and empire. But both factions self-destruct in a stupendously colorful way, and Pran escapes to Bombay, where he assumes a double life as both Robert, the obedient foster child of an eccentric Scottish missionary and his wife; and Pretty Bobby, errand boy for the sex shops in the city's infamous Falkland Road.

One night, when Pran witnesses a murder of a young Englishman about to return to his homeland for a proper education and to claim his inheritance, the quick theft of the victim's passport and boat tickets buys Pran yet another identity in a country he is prepared to make his own. Exquisitely skillful and wise, The Impressionist is full of unforgettable characters and insights -- into what it means to be black or white, and of the need to find a place where one belongs.

Genre: Literary Fiction

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