Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Book Review: Half Girlfriend by Chetan Bhagat

I have read all the previous novels of Chetan Bhagat and to some extend I enjoyed them. I understand that his stories are not the ones where you can find the meaning of life or are the ones like the classics of yore. So, it was with not much expectation that I started reading his latest book 'Half Girlfriend' published last year. The title seemed to suggest a soft romantic story and I was right. The feeling you get when you read his novels is like watching a movie. That is understandable as nowadays basically he writes his books in a way so that a big Bollywood blockbuster can be made out of it. In a sense, he reminds me of the novels of Sidney Sheldon which I used to love when I was a teenager.

The story of this book revolves around two persons, Madhav Jha and Riya Somani. It has all the ingredients of a classic Bollywood love story: boy is not rich, girl is rich, boy is not sophisticated, girl lives in Lutyen's (New Delhi), boy falls for girl, he gets friendzoned. The story goes around for a few years with some ups and downs in both of their lives and finally the boy gets the girl after travelling half way across the world. The same old boring story line which does not leave much to the imagination.

It is very difficult to judge such a story, as the formula has been tried and tested in multitude of movies and is bound to succeed with the Indian youth audience. There is nothing to take away from the book for a literature lover. There is nothing to take away from the book for an eternal romantic. The climax is expected when you reach about three quarters of the book. There are no plot twists that occurs which any seasoned reader would not be able to guess. The only saving grace for the book is that it has been very well edited, and there are not many mistakes that occurs.

However, some elements of the story seems a bit too shallow for me to digest. For instance, no one in India that I know calls a brinjal, an eggplant. There are numerous such small things that do not seem to go with the character of Madhav. He seems too self confident sometimes and at times it seems there is no confidence in him at all. There is no balance in the character. The girl, Riya seems too aloof and given her nature it is a surprise she does some of the things mentioned in the book.

Bhagat has transformed the way Indian audiences read, but he is no saviour of English literature. But to his credit he did do us a huge favour by encouraging the average Indian to read. He claims to want to make a positive change in the society through his writings, but given that he has written a book tailor made for Bollywood, I doubt that change is happening any-time soon. My advice would be to read this book without any expectations from it and only then you will not be disappointed. I would not say the roughly six to seven hours spent reading this book was a total waste, but it does seems to put in perspective the choices I make with my time. However, I believe that the 8 or 9 Euros I spent on purchasing this book was a complete wastage of my money.

Title: Half Girlfriend
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Publisher: Rupa
Price: Rs. 176 (India), $16 (outside India)

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