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2015 Man Booker Longlist: Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy

sleeping on jup

Next time I come up with a brilliant idea to try and read all the longlist books before the shortlist, please stop me. Luckily for me (unluckily for her since she got dragged into it too) I have a wonderful co-blogger who helped me out by tackling half the books. Will we make it through the whole longlist before September 15? It’s questionable, but we are getting close.

Next up… Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy. Find out where it ranks for us.Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy
Published in: 2015
Reviewed by: Jen
Find it/buy it here: Sleeping On Jupiter

Synopsis (from Amazon): A train stops at a railway station. A young woman jumps off. She has wild hair, sloppy clothes, a distracted air. She looks indian, yet she is somehow not. The sudden violence of what happens next leaves the other passengers gasping. The train terminates at jarmuli, a temple town by the sea. Here, among pilgrims, priests and ashrams, three old women disembark only to encounter the girl once again. What is someone like her doing in this remote corner, which attracts only worshippers? over the next five days, the old women live out their long-planned dream of a holiday together; their temple guide finds ecstasy in forbidden love; and the girl is joined by a photographer battling his own demons. The full force of the evil and violence beneath the serene surface of the town becomes evident when their lives overlap and collide. Unexpected connections are revealed between devotion and violence, friendship and fear as jarmuli is revealed as a place with a long, dark past that transforms all who encounter it. This is a stark and unflinching novel by a spellbinding storyteller, about religion, love, and violence in the modern world.

My review: I have some mixed feelings about Sleeping with Jupiter. I loved some things and disliked other things. I would probably rate it at a 3.5 in my 5 star rating system, but it is one of those books I find difficult to rate and as a result that rating does not do the book justice.

Roy’s writing is wonderful. She uses beautifully descriptive and very thoughtful prose — sparse one minute and flowery and poetic the next as the stories shift. Here are a few quotes to give you a sense of the language:

A kite skimmed the sky, knife-sharp. It flew higher and higher. Her eyes followed it into the limitless emptiness of unblemished blue, not a wisp of cloud. The kite climbed further. It was a speck of sunlit red in the blue air.

Her husband called her a high-tension wire, humming with faint vibrations, even when apparently still. Her flaming-red hair matched how she was inside, she thought, even if the red came from a bottle.

The novel was clever in the skillful way that the author exposes the hypocrisy of certain elements of her society, particularly related to the role of women. For example, women are told to cover themselves up when visiting the temples, yet these same temples had erotic carvings on their walls depicting worse than a bare shoulder. Abuses toward children were hidden in supposedly spiritual places. There was a constant undercurrent of threat and danger throughout the novel while on the surface the characters were engaging in activities that should have been free of danger (visiting temples, sitting on the beach, etc.).

I enjoyed the blend of characters and the way the author connected their stories in subtle ways — one common thread was the tea-seller on the beach where they all spent time. The way in which different storylines were weaved together and past and present were blended was masterful.

I had a hard time with some of the child abuse. Some of the descriptions were very vivid and that was not enjoyable to read. This was intentional. Child abuse shouldn’t be something comfortable and Roy was trying to make a point. I get that, but it just made it difficult to read at times.

The thing that bothered me the most was the way the book ended — don’t worry, no spoilers. Roy raises so many interesting questions and possible directions for the characters during the body of the novel and then leaves many of these questions unanswered. Again, I realize that this was intentional but it really aggravated me. I had become very invested in Nomi’s story and felt angered by the ending and I was completely unsatisfied. I’m not typically one of those people who need all ends tied up in a neat little bow (as supported by the fact that I LOVE Murakami’s works), but I needed more closure than Roy was willing to provide.

For my ratings, I did take off some points for originality. I’ve read quite a few books that tackle women’s issues and child abuse in India. For example, earlier this year, I reviewed Amita Trasi’s wonderful debut novel about child abuse and sex trafficking in India – centered around temples and spirituality. It was a very different sort of book, but tackled similar themes. I also took off one point for character complexity. It was a relatively short novel and had many characters that were central. Some were more developed than others. So here are my final ratings:

Available in English: 1/1
Published in the UK: 1/1
Originality: 5/8
Character Complexity: 4/5
Writing Quality: 5/5
Total 16/20

Have you read this book? What did you think? Would it make your shortlist? 

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Sleeping On Jupiter

We have now completed 10/13 long list books and here are our rankings to date:

  1. Little Life: (based on Jen’s rating) & The Illuminations (based on Book Worm’s Rating): 18/20
  2. The Chimes by Anna Smaill 17.25 (average rating Jen & Book Worm)
  3. The Fishermen (based on Jen’s rating): 16/20 & Sleeping on Jupiter (based on Jen’s rating)
  4. Lila & The Year of the Runaways (both based on book worm ratings): 15/20
  5. A Spool of Blue Thread: 14/20 (based on book worm’s rating)
  6. The Green Road (joint rating) & Satin Island (book worm’s rating): 13/20

Another two bite the dust with the addition of Sleeping on Jupiter which is now tied with The Fishermen in our list (although if I had to pick between the two, I’d pick Sleeping on Jupiter over The Fishermen. Sorry Lila & The Year of the Runaways. Three more to go. Will we make it? Stay tuned.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Interesting review. I just finished reading this book on Wednesday and posted my review this morning. I didn’t like it quite as much as you did but thought that there were some really lovely parts (and some very uncomfortable ones). I completely agree with the ending though. I usually like my endings to be open ended or messy but this one felt like the author wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with Nomi so she did that. I wasn’t impressed.

    Poor Lila getting knocked of the list haha! I hated Gilead but ended up liking the two companion novels in the series, surprisingly. That said, I wouldn’t be sad if Lila doesn’t make it to the short list – Ms. Robinson has accolades aplenty.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 11, 2015
    • I haven’t seen your review yet. Can you add the link here for others to who want to see what you think? When I first finished this, I wasn’t sure whether I liked it. It did leave an impression on me but partly because I was annoyed at the ending. I felt very conflicted about how to review the book. I look forward to reading your review

      Liked by 1 person

      September 11, 2015

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  1. 2015 Man Booker Prize Shortlist Predictions | The Reader's Room
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