Unlike our usual reading material, this book is not a novel; there was no “story” as such - we felt it to be more of a travelogue -which made it difficult to review from our book club’s point of view.
Varanasi is a colourful city on the banks of the Ganges river. The author had stayed there briefly previously and fallen in love with it but then had the opportunity to live there for a year.
The book was well written and easy to read in the main. However, there was heavy use of Indian words and terms throughout which some liked as there was a glossary to explain them but others found they interrupted the flow of the writing and would have preferred the English translation to be used in the text.
The stories and personalities he encountered were fascinating; however, the book was generally considered to be interesting rather than engaging due to his lack of personal involvement or interaction with his subjects. It was also notable that, although the book covered an entire year, there were no obvious markers to indicate the passage of time. We found it difficult to locate the area within India and felt that a map of the area and its surrounds would have been helpful.
Overall we felt that it was a competent travel book but lacked sufficient personal information about the author’s time there although one of the group felt it was one of the best books our book club had read!
We gave the book a mark of 5 out of 10.