Saturday, September 3, 2016
The Cauliflower - Nicola Barker
A saint is his own breed of magical creature, the care which, as we learn from Nicola Barker's delightful biographical novel of the 19th century Hindu Sri Ramakrishna, can be complicated, infuriating, and occasionally dangerous, but oh so rewarding.
The author's sharp wit and imagination were immediately captivating and carried me through the novel, though it took me the first thirty pages or so to gain my bearings on voice and chronology. I loved the immersive and transporting details of life in late 1800's Bengal at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple on the Hooghly River near Calcutta - the characters, language, landscape, gods and goddesses, and a fascinating cast of characters. The non-chronological telling and rotating point of view for the most part was a strength, both setting off Nicola Barker's impressive mind and writing, and conveying a wonderful and complex portrait of Sri Ramakrishna and his entourage, but also maybe got in the way of the narrative building up to a very strong crescendo - which didn't stop me from thoroughly admiring and enjoying the book, though I did lose a little momentum. The novel's tone achieves a wonderful balance between reverence and humor, mysticism and realism, and clearly comes from a place of great love for its subject. The Cauliflower left me with warm feelings, a sudden urge to travel across time and place, a few lovely big ideas to ponder, and a firm desire to read more by the author.
I received my copy of The Cauliflower from the publisher.