Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Book Review: Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

Magic Seeds is the story of Willie Chandran, a former writer who left England for Africa. Willie turns up in Berlin where he is persuaded by his siter to go to India and become a revolutionary. After many years in the jungle he is arrested, spends time in prison and is unexpectedly released to return to England which he finds has changed for the worse.

I found the first half of this novel quite interesting and a pertinent observation upon the real nature of revolutionaries and what they represent. However, I was very disappointed in the second half of the book where the themes of how someone returning to a country after many years finds life difficult are not explored in an enlightening way.

After reading Magic Seeds I found out that it was the sequel to "Half a Life" which tells the first half of Willie's story, and perhaps Magic Seeds would have made more sense had I read part one. In this way, I found that this book was not a novel of its own, but just the second part of a story. There were a number of things I couldn't really understand, probably explained in "Half a Life" such as why Willie's sister wanted him to become a revolutionary and why he was so easily convinced - quite frankly he came across as semi-retarded in the making of this decision.

However, the part of the book which deals with Willie's return to England I found quite poor. The author fails to give the reader an insight into Willie's mind and I would imagine that any conclusions one can draw can only be made in comparison to Willie's time in England in "Half a Life". Instead, the focus is upon a friend's seedy affair with a younger woman which serves to reinforce the message that people should not be so easily swayed when making choices. Unfortunately the message becomes the author's priority over the story and the book just fizzles out into nothing.

I would only recommend this book to those who read and enjoyed "Half a Life" which is, it seems, in fact the first part of the same story. I found this book began interestingly and died halfway through and wondered if the reviews I had read were even about the same book. If the prequel was named "Half a Life" then perhaps "Magic Seeds" should be called Half a Story. A very disappointing novel by a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Score: 4/10

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