Vikas Swarup must be sitting on top of the world right now. The
film adaptation of his best-selling novel is the
darling of the awards circuit; the winner of the Golden Globe,
the Bafta, and the Oscar too.
The film is based on Vikas Swarup's novel, Q & A (now published as Slumdog Millionaire).
Ram Mohammad Thomas is the most improbable of heroes. An orphan street-kid turned waiter, Ram has never had any formal education, and yet he's just won one billion rupees after correctly answering 12 questions in an Indian quiz show.
While attempting to prove his innocence, Ram details the 12 extraordinary events which enabled him to answer the questions: being discovered in a bin by a priest; living as a servant under an Australian family; how he fooled a professional hit man; and how he found love.
Slumdog Millionaire is a highly accessible account of living in India. Don't expect detailed accounts of the caste system or India's chequered history; this is a simple story of how one boy triumphed against adversity.
Swarup employs a fable structure in his novel: each chapter explains how Ram is able to answer the questions put to him while revealing the life lessons he discovered along the way: love, trust, the impermanence of suffering, the dangers of money.
Ram has by no means led a guilt-free life, but like any good hero his mistakes were well intentioned, and every transgression is accompanied by an appropriate moral.
It's a simplistic and effective method of story-telling: each chapter as a stand-alone story; a snippet out of the central protagonist's life. Ram's life is not detailed in chronological order, rather by the order of questions put to him by the quiz show.
Before reading this book I was given very sound words of advice: suspend your disbelief. This is particularly necessary in the final twist in the book, when a villainous character pops up in an improbable context. His relevance is questionable - it seems Swarup has thrown him in to tidy up loose ends and to stress the importance of justice. Unfortunately it jars.
However, let these minor moments go and you're in for quite a ride.
Slumdog Millionaire (previously published as Q & A) by Vikas Swarup
Publisher: Random House
Available: Now, from all good bookstores
Click here to read Darren Bevan's movie review of Slumdog Millionaire
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