Half a Life

Half a Life

3.22 (2,850 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Audio cassette
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A powerful and compelling work of fiction from one of the world's greatest living writers Willy Chandran's father was a man at odds with the world - seeking greatness in the confining world that his class and caste dictated while political conflict in pre-Partition India rages around him. As a way of defying his heritage he decides to marry a woman of a lower caste but soon comes to loathe the very sight of her. From this unhappy union, Willy and his sister are born, both disdained by their father. It is from here that Half A Life takes off as we follow Willy Chandran's journey to escape his unhappy past and discover some kind of identity for himself. He travels to London where he is first exposed to the life of the immigrant in post war London - hanging around in dingy West End clubs and attempting fruitless sexual gratification. Through his writing he is drawn to the world of the BBC and of letters where he meets pompous publishers and men eager for sexual conquest. But residing deep within him is a sense of unease until he meets a girl from a Portuguese African colony and at last it seems he has found salvation.show more

Product details

  • Audio cassette
  • 142.24 x 215.9 x 25.4mm | 498.95g
  • Pan MacMillan
  • Macmillan Audio Books
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 0333906497
  • 9780333906491

About V. S. Naipaul

V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He is the author of fourteen works of fiction, including A House for Mr Biswas, A Bend in the River and in a Free State, and ten works of non-fiction including An Area of Darkness and India: A Wounded Civilization. He has won practically every major literary award. He lives in Wiltshire.show more

Review Text

The word 'Novel' used to refer to a piece of writing which was, by all accounts, so imagined, imaginative, and creatively created that it was 'new'. V D Naipul has spent all his life breaking mould, creating in the process writing that is as inventive as it is challenging, as difficult to pigeonhole as it is to put down. Half A Life begins with Willie Chandran's discovery that his middle name is Somerset, after the great English writer admired by his father. The discovery sets in motion a fate which will see Willie come to London in the 1950s in search of the life which would erase all of his father's failures and recast himself as a new man. This, however, is a time of post-colonial re-branding and as Willie haunts London he experiences the detachment which comes from being both a part and apart of Britain's rich imperial tapestry. Informed by Naipul's own feelings during his days in London, Half A Life is then transformed into an intimate study of detachment, both from self and the world. Unable to experience sexual pleasure, Willie finally finds some peace with a young Portuguese-African called Ana, whom he follows to Mozambique. It is there, twice removed from anything that he might once have felt he belonged to, that Willie can see the loss of empire, the destruction of indigenous culture and the uneasy melting pot within which a halfway synthesis occurs, which satisfies nobody. In Willie, as in his past characters, Naipul has invested something of himself. More than that he has made Willie a mirror reflecting back the horror of the post-colonial soul, explaining why marginality and exile are sometimes easier to embrace than emancipation. In the process he has created a work of fiction which is truly, novel. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

2,850 ratings
3.22 out of 5 stars
5 10% (293)
4 28% (793)
3 41% (1,161)
2 16% (463)
1 5% (140)
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