Book Review – “The Guide” by R. K. Narayan

 

And so once again, I return to Malgudi, only this time, it is a very different story than the naughty adventures of Swami and his friends.

The Guide tells us the story of Raju, a skilful liar who uses his guile to become a tourist guide in the little town of Malgudi, and Rosie, a lady who happens to meet him when she visits the town with her husband.

How this relationship changes their lives, not just once but twice, forms the rest of the story. You might feel that I’m handing out spoilers by the dozen here, but let me assure you that the book is more than just about the plot.

First published in India in 1958, ‘The Guide’ is also a social commentary, a feeling that I get might be a continuing strain in Narayan’s books.

Also, right throughout, one keeps on reminiscing the songs from the hit Bollywood adaptation of the book, starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rahman.

If you were to ask me about the broad themes of this book, I would say ‘hubris’ and ‘irony’. The fact that R. K. Narayan manages to express these subtly and with the use of simple words is a hat-tip to his skill with words.

Read more about “The Guide” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: The Guide

Author: R. K. Narayan

First Published: 1958

Number of Pages: 247

Price: (Paperback) INR 100 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 4 out of 5

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

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Book Review – “Swami and Friends” by R. K. Narayan

 

What a wonderful little gem this book is. Set in 1930’s south-India, the book tells us about the adventures of 10-year old Swaminathan and his group of friends. The book transports us back in time on two levels: one is to a semi-rural setting almost a century ago; and two, to the simpler times of one’s childhood.

Not only is life simple in the little town of Malgudi, but there is also the additional charm of the little things which look big and complex to a 10 year old. And yet, the magic of the book lies in the fact that it doesn’t seem dated at all.

It would be wrong to assume this is just a book about a little boy’s school adventures. Even if that were all that this book described, it would still make you smile at the naughtiness and curious thoughts that rush about the minds of a little schoolboy. This book, however, also appeals to us because it gives us a glimpse of the slow rumblings at the start of the Indian independence movement as felt in a little town. There are pages in the book when I winced at the action, but that is attributable to how well those scenes were written.

The bigger picture, however, will always be about Swami and the world of imagination that he builds in his head. It is amazing how well Narayan captures the demons that shout warnings in the ears of a little child, magnifying all his troubles to an almost insurmountable challenge. But then, where there are challenges, there are friends. And Swami has a faithful group of friends (some of whom are top notch rascals) whose mischiefs will endear them to you.

Read this book to remind yourself of the simpler times that you once knew so well.

P. S. For all you cricket lovers out there, look out for when Swami and his friends ambitiously form the MCC, the Malgudi Cricket Club.

Read more about “Swami and Friends” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: Swami and Friends

Author: R. K. Narayan

First Published: 1935

Number of Pages: 212

Price: (Paperback) Rs. 108 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 4 out of 5

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)