Archive | October, 2010

My Revolutions

28 Oct

Hari Kunzru - author of The Impressionist and My Revolutions

My friend found this gem on her bookshelf. Apparently she had bought it ages ago because of the cover (naughty, naughty!) and only after she had read The Impressionist (amazing), she realised she had another Hari Kunzru, desperate to be read. So I took it before she could!

My Revolutions begins with Mike Frame, turning fifty and planning to shed his life. Because he isn’t Mike Frame. Don’t worry, I have given nothing away that isn’t revealed on the second page. The novel does not revolve around this plan, but everything that leads up to it. In ingenious and surprisingly fluid jumps, Kunzru manages to split the narrative between the late 60s/early 70s, 3 months ago and the present. He maintains tension throughout the novel, always leaving the reader wanting just a little bit more information about whichever period they’re reading at the time.

Mike started life as Chris, a disillusioned young man with revolutionary tendencies, sucked  first into the Anti-Vietnam War movement and then various anti-establishment causes. He is swept into demonstrations in Trafalgar Square, squats and the discussion of real free love and so was I as I read. But Chris is in deeper than he ever intended to be and the stakes get higher all the time.

Kunzru has captured the mood and agitation of London in the 60s/70s extremely well (I imagine, being a child of the 80s!). He does not preach about either side – the “pigs” or the revolutionaries – leaving judgments and commentary up to the reader. The political discussion is not too heavy, but for anyone who has an interest in the times, he highlights many issues, many of which I hadn’t thought about before.

Kunzru muses over the revolutionary spirit and what drives revolutionary action and ultimately terrorism. His view of terrorism, however, is pre-September 11 and one must wonder whether this wouldn’t have turned out a very different novel post the Twin Towers.

In the end though, the skill of My Revolutions doesn’t lie in the historical detail and mood, but the tension that Kunzru creates throughout. Whether it is in mysterious characters such as Miles Bridgeman and Anna Addison, or the purposeful omission of specific details, Kunzru creates as much tension as any good spy novel, but in a far more intelligent and thought-provoking setting.

And I really like the cover.