Got my copy of Half Girlfriend last week Wednesday, just in time for train journey to Blr. Read it in bits all through the Wayanad trip and managed to finish reading it by Sunday. It took another week to make some time and compile this review.
As you know already by now the book is pretty good and worth a read. The first 80 odd pages felt very typical of a Bollywood movie without anything substantial. Boy from small town comes to Delhi, happens to meet a beautiful girl, starts liking her, girl doesn’t want this love business, relationship goes bad, girl gets married… This part doesn’t have anything new, so I got a feeling that this book is just another typical love story with one and only uniqueness being the term “half girlfriend”
But story gets interesting in the second part, with our hero Madhav Jha returning to hometown with a though of helping his mother in running the school. Challenges of running a village school with no government support, lack of basic facilities and indifference of local MLA and then a possible funding opportunity from Gates Foundation and how Madhav attempts to improve his English makes the meaningful part of the book. His half girlfriend’s re-entry into his life resumes the love story.
Book sort of stereotypes that all Bihari people have poor English language skills. Not everyone would appreciate this generalization. Book doesn’t go into details of how the Gates Foundation money was used to improve the school (Anyway that isn’t the objective of the novel in the first place, but we’re given to understand that it was well spent)
Some lines are very touchy- for example, a farmer waiting all day to meet the MLA- his only request was that they be given 3 hours of power supply a day, so that he can pump enough water to his fields. The other one is about Not throwing away any food when in hostel. Plot also confirms that discussing your love life with your friends will do more harm than good. Some tips to improve English- like speaking to strangers in English, “Thinking in English” etc are very good and practical.
Few other ideas like “Had India conquered England instead of other way round, probably Hindi would have been international language and all white people would struggle to learn Hindi” are worth a thought.
The last 50 odd pages offer good twist in the tale to keep readers hooked. Chetan Bhagat’s idea of bringing himself into the loop and narration has worked very well.
At many instances we get a feeling that book is written with a movie script/screenplay in mind, than a literature work.
Should you buy and read this book? If you’re an ardent fan of CB, you might of already bought this book. If you can wait for an year or two for it to become a movie, then wait. If you don’t buy and read you’re not going to miss much, because essence of the plot and novel is already all over the internet- you know the story, you know what happens in the end if you read some of the reviews. If you have some time to spare and if you enjoy reading masala fiction, then by all means go buy one. Flipkart launch price was Rs 147, but I’ve seen prices dropping to Rs 90. Keep an eye and buy when the price is around Rs 100.