Read The Cauliflower by Nicola Barker Online


From Man Booker-shortlisted, IMPAC Award-winning author Nicola Barker comes an exuberant, multi-voiced new novel mapping the extraordinary life and legacy of a 19th-century Hindu saintHe is only four years older, but still I call him Uncle, and when I am with Uncle I have complete faith in him. I would die for Uncle. I have an indescribable attraction towards Uncle. . . .From Man Booker-shortlisted, IMPAC Award-winning author Nicola Barker comes an exuberant, multi-voiced new novel mapping the extraordinary life and legacy of a 19th-century Hindu saintHe is only four years older, but still I call him Uncle, and when I am with Uncle I have complete faith in him. I would die for Uncle. I have an indescribable attraction towards Uncle. . . . It was ever thus.To the world, he is Sri Ramakrishna--godly avatar, esteemed spiritual master, beloved guru (who would prefer not to be called a guru), irresistible charmer. To Rani Rashmoni, she of low caste and large inheritance, he is the brahmin fated to defy tradition and preside over the temple she dares to build, six miles north of Calcutta, along the banks of the Hooghly for Ma Kali, goddess of destruction. But to Hriday, his nephew and longtime caretaker, he is just Uncle--maddening, bewildering Uncle, prone to entering ecstatic trances at the most inconvenient of times, known to sneak out to the forest at midnight to perform dangerous acts of self-effacement, who must be vigilantly safeguarded not only against jealous enemies and devotees with ulterior motives, but also against that most treasured yet insidious of sulfur-rich vegetables: the cauliflower.Rather than puzzling the shards of history and legend together, Barker shatters the mirror again and rearranges the pieces. The result is a biographical novel viewed through a kaleidoscope. Dazzlingly inventive and brilliantly comic, irreverent and mischievous, The Cauliflower delivers us into the divine playfulness of a 21st-century literary master....

Title : The Cauliflower
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781627797191
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Cauliflower Reviews

  • Dannii Elle
    2018-11-16 16:07

    The Cauliflower is, in short, the biographical account of the life of Sri Ramakrishna. The reality is that this is so much more than that! The book is divided into short sections, varying from a few words to a few pages, with no apparent chronological or discernible order to them. Some of these sections are nothing but a haiku, some are a set of questions about the life of the enigma and some are fragmented scenes, from various perspectives, from the life of the great spiritual master. When pieced together, these scenes all work to bring the life of Sri Ramakrishna, along with the cultural and historical setting, into sharp focus.I felt quite conflicted whilst reading this book. The timescale jumps on every other page, but I found I could get into that. It was the subject matter that baffled me. I knew too little about it and therefore felt it quite hard to follow, know what the multitude of native words were referring to, and where in the overall story each fragment was referring to. It was definitely interesting but quite a dense read, despite the actual manner of storytelling being quite the opposite.I can fully understand why it is Man Booker shortlisted, but it was such a complex read and I am not sure it was necessarily for me. The writing had a beautiful poetic quality to it and the knowledge imparted was immense but as there was little order to them, I often was unaware of where and what exactly I was learning about. As I previously stated, if I had a cursory knowledge of the subject matter, my enjoyment and overall understanding would have been greatly heightened.

  • Rebecca Foster
    2018-11-24 15:14

    Put simply, this is a fictionalized biography of the largely illiterate Hindu guru Sri Ramakrishna (1836–1886). That may sound dry as dust, but Barker makes it a playful delight by skipping around in time and interspersing aphorisms, imagined film scenes, questions and answers, and even a recipe with the narrative chapters. Indeed, she teasingly refers to herself as the book’s collagist. The kernel of the story – set in 1857 at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, six miles north of Calcutta – is narrated in the first person by the guru’s nephew, Hriday. No matter how wildly it swings, the narrative keeps returning to this stable point. Scripture of all types (the Bible is also cited) is a relevant, joyful echo here rather than a dull set of rules. Some of the guru’s teachings are delivered as pithy three-line stanzas, almost like haikus. Bizarre but very readable; recommended.See my full review (including an explanation of that peculiar title) at The Bookbag.

  • Marc Nash
    2018-12-03 21:47

    I read just over half of this and then gave up. A book about a Hindu mystic & saint, written by a Westerner who is not Hindu. A book that part relies on the Japanese form of Haiku to tell a story about India, a cultural mash-up too far in my humble opinion. It is well researched but reads inauthentically. Perhaps that's why the author opted for a non-linear 'experimental' approach, but that only erodes any notion of spirituality which is after all its quest. An attempt to describe the ineffable which is perforce ineffable, so the artifices and conceits of the adopted style show through all too readily. If anything rather than the author's intention of "a small (even pitiable) attempt to understand how faith works" she manages to be irreligious and profane and disrespectful of her subject matter through her chosen form of presenting it and I say that as an irreligious person myself with no hankering to defend the honour or dignity of any religious faith. I suppose any work of fiction asks its reader to take a leap of faith and stick with the book to see how it unfurls and reveals itself. But this book seems to ask for twin leaps of faith, that, plus one into the subject of religious faith itself which I was not prepared to do. I took the first leap of faith and stuck with it to halfway through, but then I desired no further revelation from the book (having adjudged there to be scant for my non-theistic spiritual/artistic hunger by page 163 anyway). Now don't get me wrong, I am a fan of the experimental and especially the non-linear. But it has to be in the service of the apposite material or themes. And I can't help feeling that here it isn't. If the subject is so vaporous, a vaporous diffuse literary style is just going to further disperse the specks and grains of the character rather than condense them and bring them to light. The 'miraculous', unexplained phenomena here don't come across as holy and sacred and divine, but just as cod Magical Realism. And outside of Latin America I don't like MR (don't like it much in Latin American literature either, but at least it has a context there). In the half that I read, the two most interesting stylistic perspectives both derived from our modern age, not from the 19th Century when this mystic lived his life. One is on a film set making the story of his life and the jaundiced, ambitious actors inhabiting the main historical characters. The other is when an imaginary camera is mounted to a swift and anachronistically sent back to scan & record the landscape of the Temple of Kali to which the mystic devotes himself. But even then I was ahead of the author, as I just knew at some stage it would end with footage of the swift being hunted and killed by a bird of prey. So for all its purported experimentalism, it was a bit too clunkily predictable in parts. I picked up this book without knowing its subject matter, because I was undecided but intrigued enough by my first exposure to this writer. She is lauded as one of the most radical experimentalists writing in the UK today, which I now wholeheartedly disagree with on the basis of two works and not just because of her chosen subject matter. I just don't think she truly subverts narrative form at all. But to the establishment she probably does look radical by being merely unconventional.

  • Aisling
    2018-12-11 16:57

    Don't give up on this book and don't rush to judgement. After all, if you meet a man who is supposed to be a Hindu holy man you might have the same reaction; looking at one thing may horrify you, but the next might change your mind. Indian mystics are notorious for being a little beyond the average Westerners' comprehension.But that is why Barker has written a really amazing book. You may find the author irreverent, flippant, jarring and annoyingly non linear but then consider the man she is attempting to bring to life on the pages of a book. She's actually a genius in this.I spent the first half (or more) of this book saying to myself; 1) this author can really write but why is she doing this and 2) what a fascinating person was Sri Ramakrishna. By the end of the book I understood and appreciated that she's actually written a book very like the man himself; absurd, beautiful, a little unfathomable but on balance a thing of awe, a thing to be studied and pondered.I think barring transporting yourself back to 1800's Calcutta and spending a lifetime observing the man, this book is as close as you will get to knowing the unknowable---that doesn't mean this author will give you the answers of the universe, it just means she will make you, drag you, Socratically FORCE you to think, to re think, and then turn all of that on its head and leave you to figure that out. Just like a good guru.

  • Doug
    2018-12-10 22:55

    When the supposedly encouraging blurbs from the critics on the back cover state that the book in question is both 'frustrating' and 'overlong', it's best to take heed. I am not sure what to make of this odd, sui generis book - even the author (in the afterward) claims it is not quite a novel, more of a mosaic. The book, in various vignettes, haikus, quotations from Song of Solomon, etc., presented non-chronologically, tells the biography of real life mid-19th century mystic guru Sri Ramakrishna, who was indeed quite a mystifying, eccentric character - but the stories don't really add up to much. Some are amusing, some grotesque (such as the guru licking the feces of strangers to overcome the vanity of aversion - yuck!), but it lacks narrative drive or cohesiveness, so I found myself having to force myself to continue (and from the reviews here, many gave up the journey). I'm not exactly sorry I read it, and might be interested in reading other of Barker's works (especially her three Booker nominated tomes), but this just didn't do it for me.

  • Rebecca
    2018-11-12 17:47

    The Cauliflower is historical fiction completely unlike you know it (in fact I'm rather disappointed that that's how my library decided to categorise it). Barker re-imagines the story of an Indian saint in a way that completely fits with his paradoxical life. It's riotous fun and definitely achieves the author's aim, namely to "attempt to understand how faith works, how a legacy develops, how a spiritual history is written." Also, it has a further reading list at the end, and that always makes me very happy!

  • Nadine
    2018-12-09 19:09

    A book that is as mischievous, erratic, slippery, charming and cringe-inducing as its main character, Sri Ramakrishna. The story is mostly told by his nephew Hridayram, his doting but long-suffering dogsbody, although we also see SR through the eyes of his patrons and entourage, and hear from Westerners who have met him (SR was a real person - the author draws from eye-witness accounts and provides a bibliography in the Afterward.) You will wonder where the cauliflower is for most of the book. And wonder more after its first appearance. If you are a fan of Rushdie's Midnight's Children, you'll find the same sense of humor here.The madness IS the method in this book, which will either infuriate or entertain you - give it about 50 pages before you decide. The narrative jumps erratically in time over the course of SR's life, from approximately the 1840's though the late 1880's, although we dart into current times on rare and strange occasions. The author uses italics, large blocks of empty space, and occasional tiny snippets of poetry or psalms to keep the text playful and moving at a rapid clip. Here's a tiny example, taken from somewhere in the middle of the book:Oh, which of us can truly comprehend the divine play of Sri Ramakrishna? Is he man or child? Leader or follower? Masculine or feminine? Radical or conservative? Idiot or genius? A god, a god-man, or just too, too human? Is this book a farce, a comedy, a tragedy, or a melodrama? What is this? Who was he? Who the heck was Sri Ramakrishna?Eh? Eh? ? !

  • Erin Cataldi
    2018-11-25 17:04

    This is not an easy book to review, not by a long shot. There are no chapters, a cast of ever-changing characters and side stories, and an almost gleeful air of frivolity. Even though I don't quite know what to think of it, I'm giving it a solid 4 because it is ingenious and wonderfully written. Following the life of the hindu guru/saint, Sri Ramakrishna told through many perspectives, stages, of life, and experiences, the story is weaved together with an omniscient narrator (ie a humorous author) and lots of fun, faith, and frivolity (again, the story is covered with it). Not for the faint of heart, but rewarding for those readers who do finish it. Not what i expected, but I'm glad I did.

  • Rian Nejar
    2018-12-03 18:47

    I have little to say, and enclose what I do say in a virtual wrapper for those who may wish to skip it. Historically, psychologically, intriguing. (view spoiler)[Disappointing. Scatter-brained: the timeline (not followed!) is disorienting. Cliche'd, as for instance, "His records. Indicate. Little. Else" Incomprehensible. The most contrived of styles, compelling rapid page skipping. Not for readers seeking a pleasant read, or enlightenment.(hide spoiler)]A Goodreads First Reads book received free and reviewed.

  • Peter Upton
    2018-12-04 22:06

    This was a well researched book that definitely would have been a five star book if it had kept to chronological order. The way it jumped backwards and forwards in time stopped me from feeling any sense of attachment to it for the first 70 pages. After this the people and events started to fall into place. After completing the book I went back and read the first 70 pages again and this time they were fine and made sense because I had now read the rest of the book and I suspect that, because the author knew the whole story, she didn't realize how disjointed the first 70 pages felt to a new reader.I came away from this book with a fascinating insight into 'the Rani', the lady who built the Kali temple where Ramakrishna lived throughout his life, and with an enormous amount of respect for the way she used her wealth and brains to improve social conditions and to run delightfully clever rings around the ruling British. But Ramakrishna remained an enigma, perhaps because he was just that, and I feel I will now need to consult the excellent reading list at the back of The Cauliflower in order to do so.

  • Mandy
    2018-12-01 23:10

    I gave it my best shot. Got about half way through before I admitted defeat. I always feel a moral obligation to finish books that I have been kindly granted by NetGalley, but on this occasion I was gradually losing the will to live. It’s all very clever, I suppose, but I just couldn’t engage with this discursive, rambling narrative about a Hindu guru. Not for me, this one.

  • Vijayalakshmi
    2018-12-11 17:08

    The book, a fictionalized biography of the eccentric Indian saint Sri Ramakrishna (better known to the West as the Guru of Swami Vivekananda), turns the concept of a historical novel on its head. It does away with the traditional trappings of the genre, and becomes a weird kaleidoscope instead.One of the narrators is the writer herself, and the other is Sri Ramakrishna’s nephew, Hridayram. These two voices carry us on a random, almost stream of consciousness journey through time and space. There is no linearity–we jump from thought to thought, from character to character, from past to present within the blink of an eye. One must be a very alert reader indeed to keep up with the author.Interspersed with the text itself are haikus, excerpts from the Song of Solomon, letters from Western visitors to Sri Ramakrishna’s ashram etc. The form and structure are fluid. While this grants the book literary merit, it makes for a confusing and painstaking reading experience. For those readers who do not mind the experimental, for whom reading is not a passive act, this book is a great choice. I certainly enjoyed this crazy, unpredictable aspect of the book.What I do question however, is whether the author is the right person to write this book. The author’s knowledge about Sri Ramakrishna, his life, and Hinduism as a whole, comes from books (the list of which she has helpfully provided at the end), but such once-removed knowledge is hardly something that one should base a novel such as this on, especially when it is based on an actual person, and when it deals with a religion as complicated and multi-hued as Hinduism.There are indications throughout the narrative that the intended audience for this book are Non-Hindu, Western readers. I know from personal and anecdotal experience that Hinduism is a largely misunderstood religion in the West. Unfortunately, I doubt that this book will do anything to help the people reading it gain any real understanding of the religion or its practitioners. If anything, it may reinforce pre-existing ideas and prejudices. The Cauliflower is a difficult read both in terms of form and content. It is not a book that one should pick up if one is not willing to put in the effort, both intellectually and emotionally. There is much to criticize here, but there is also much to appreciate, and it is the task of the reader to find that balance.Full review at :

  • Fran
    2018-11-23 21:15

    Sri Ramakrishna was born near Calcutta to a poor Brahmin family, however, he is arguably the best known 19th century Indian saint. His life was one of enigmas. He was sage but wouldn't read, simple and naive, intense and focused on spiritual matters, and had a child-like vision of the world. Using a historical biographical form author Nicola Barker's novel "The Cauliflower" presents snapshots of the guru's life.Hriday, nephew of Sri Ramakrishna as narrator of the novel, describes his devotion and frustration in caring for Sri Ramakrishna. Either he is falling into an ecstatic trance to communicate with God or transforming himself into an ape by walking on all fours and throwing fruit at passing pilgrims. Sri Ramakrishna's indulgences have been made possible by the sponsorship of the Rani and her son-in-law Mathur Babu who have built a magnificent temple to Kali, a Hindu goddess.Author Nicola Barker has made Hriday's journal very unique and enlightening. One can derive a sense of Sri Ramakrishna's true nature over his lifetime. Barker uses constant chronological changes, haikus, anecdotes and whimsy to paint the kaleidoscope of Ramakrishna's spiritual quest to be one with God.Since I am not well versed in Hinduism I found this book to be quite challenging. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed it because it was written in a non-linear form. A refreshing style of storytelling.Thank you Henry Holt & Co. and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Cauliflower".

  • Brian Rothbart
    2018-12-05 16:08

    “The Cauliflower” the new novel by Nicola Barker is the fictional biography of Sri Ramakrishna. This was a very entertaining book. It is bizarre at times, as is custom with Barker’s work, but I found it so funny and insightful. It jumps around a lot, but I really liked this book. If you haven’t read anything by Barker or you enjoy spirituality, Eastern Religion and or reading about India then I recommend you check out this funny, insightful wonderful novel.

  • Beth
    2018-12-04 23:13

    Quirky, stylistically unique and varied, the author combines fact with fiction in her attempt to understand the development of spirituality, how it gains momentum and becomes a part of a culture. Barker uses the Guru, Sri Ramakrishna, as her vehicle for examining this subject. The narrative is not dry and dour, but a fresh and inventive approach to a complex issue.

  • lisa
    2018-12-10 23:12

    This was a bizarre book, and I hesitate to call it a novel, or even much of a story. It's a collection of myths of Sri Ramakrishna, the saint of Dakshiniswar temple from the 1800s. Interspersed with the retelling of his legends are some haikus about him (that I assume are written by the author) and some quotes from Song of Solomon, and some random flights of fancy from the author (including a literal flight that goes on for TEN PAGES where she imagines she fixes a tiny camera to a swift and watches it fly around the temples of Calcutta). Oh, and she spends a lot of time ruminating about the life of Rani Rashmoni, the founder of Dakshiniswar. By the end of the book I was a little tired of the supposed cleverness of Nicola Barker, but her interpretation of India and its people made more sense to me when she admits in the afterward that she has never been to India in her life, she knows almost nothing about Hinduism (except what she's gleaned from the Krishna Consciousness), and that she basically threw all her good sense out the door to write this book. I appreciate her honesty, but this is a book clearly written (or rewritten in a sense) by a woman who doesn't know what she's talking about.This book had a certain charm to it, nonetheless, and I might have liked it more if I was more interested in Sri Ramakrishna. I am much more fascinated by his disciple Swami Vivekananda (who is never referred to by this name in this book, but by his given name Narendra Nath Datta).

  • Eims
    2018-11-14 18:50

    This book was actually picked for me by somebody else. I wanted to like it, it has an interesting style, parts of it are wonderfully funny but that wasn't enough. It's been well received. It was too choppy for me, coming across discoherent (which I'm aware is possibly the point). I struggled to stay involved with the characters and the story. I finished it as a point, more than out of enjoyment. I found it frustrating (a bit like the guru himself, no doubt) Personally, just not for me and I wouldn't recommend it to friends.

  • Vanessa
    2018-11-14 15:15

    This book started out so strongly, but I struggled to finish it and honestly was just skimming by the end. The interesting characters and nonlinear style carried me halfway through, but the lack of coherent plot ultimately made this book a disappointment. Still, Kali Ma as a major character? I'm going to call that a win.

  • Pamela Arya
    2018-12-06 20:49

    A fantastical novel about the life of guru who founded the Hari Krishna sect.... So riveting and convincing, I could not believe that the author had never visited India. Very magical and spiritual.

  • Sufie Berger
    2018-12-02 19:46

    Very difficult to keep up with so much details!! I love that it’s so exotic. Story and plot not so easy to follow.

  • Nirnaya
    2018-11-13 18:00

    Irreverent, quirky, fluid- this is a fine example of artistic licence taking flight. I quite enjoyed reading this book.

  • Amy
    2018-11-20 20:12

    Haiku, vignettes and letters all exploring the patchwork life of Sri Ramakrishna. Thought the book's structure did a sly job of mirroring the charming and infuriating character of Uncle, though it made for a tricksy read. I'm of the opinion that Nicola Barker can get away with anything, and I had fun with this one.

  • Paul T
    2018-11-24 17:04

    Fascinating treatment of a biography.

  • Angie
    2018-12-08 23:13

    Thanks so much to William Heinemann for making proofs of this novel available to booksellers.For the first 40 pages or so, I thought it was going to be brilliant, but shortly thereafter it turned into a bit of a slog. Parts of it reminded me strongly of Midnight's Children, in a good way, since I usually cite that as my favourite novel of all-time, but other parts read more like a Wikipedia entry...blah blah bland. It became too disjointed, felt a bit 'tossed together' by about midway through, far from refined, and I wasn't convinced that the unusual narrative techniques (the kind of thing which works so well and feels perfectly natural in Rushdie) were always warranted, that she wasn't just trying to be original for originality's sake alone, which isn't a good enough excuse for me. In the end, it's an extremely eccentric novel about an extremely eccentric person -- needless to say, she captured his eccentricity well, and anyone with an interest in Sri Ramakrishna and his life should definitely not miss out on this. Barker is clearly an extremely talented writer, about that she left me no doubt. I'm curious to give Darkmans a try, sometime when I'm feeling like tackling a proper tome. Overall I'm left with the feeling this can't possibly be the best example of her work...there were so many sparks of genius that just never quite erupted off the page.

  • Rama
    2018-11-18 22:15

    A provocative view of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Author Nicola Barker has written over 15 books, mainly fictional in nature that includes; Darkmans, The Yips: A Novel, Wide Open: A Novel, and few others. She widely uses strange imagination in her fictional narratives, and some of her books describes eccentric men in odd settings. In this book, she writes about the “odd” behavior of Ramakrishna, a Hindu spiritual leader who inspired Swami Vivekananda and host of modern Vedantins who created the “The Ramakrishna Order’ and the “Vedanta Society” around the globe. Her book mainly focusses on the challenges for his caretaker nephew “Hriday” and Ramakrishna’s benefactor Rani Rashmoni. There are scenarios in this book that are appropriate for a stage work. It is based on innuendos and legends; it is an insipid drama.The author may have borrowed material from Jeffrey Kripal’s “Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna.” Other scholars are critical of Kripal’s work. Swami Tyagananda and Pravrajika Vrajaprana have observed that Kripal's book has speculations that are unsupported by facts or documents. It is difficult for Western authors like Ms. Barker to comprehend the concepts of Tantra, Kali Worship and Vedanta. Sigmund Freud's friend Romain Rolland examined the spiritual experiences of Ramakrishna and concluded that the “mystical states” of Ramakrishna as an "'oceanic' sentiment", and the feelings of unity and eternity, which Ramakrishna attributed to the Goddess Kali. Many scholars like Alan Roland, Somnath Bhattacharyya, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Sudhir Kakar, Kelly Aan Raab and J.S. Hawley have argued that the analysis of Ramakrishna’s “oddities” cannot be understood without understanding religious practices of Tantra and Kali Worship (bhakti yoga) rooted in Bengali Hindu tradition. In spite of this debate, the so called “eccentric” nature of Ramakrishna did not influence negatively for Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sri Aurobindo, Leo Tolstoy, Max Müller, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, Franz Dvorak or Philip Glass who were influenced by Ramakrishna’s work. The author’s style of writing is somewhat odd. Was she in a hurry when she wrote this book? The word “salt” appears in bold in several pages, which is confounding. In many consecutive pages, paragraphs start with word “uncle” or a phrase containing “uncle” or a phrase “In the beginning.” In an interview with a British Newspaper, Ms. Barker stated that, “Mystery is everything to me. I don’t like to have everything analyzed, torn apart and put back together again in terms of the construction of fiction.” “I am happy to confound people” Good news for the author, I am not confounded! But I have a question. How did she come to pick a social reformer like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa as the focus for her novel? Why not pick other eccentrics like Jesus? Or is it too blasphemous to suggest.

  • Greg
    2018-11-19 20:54

    Extremely jumpy but entertaining

  • Ryan Fields
    2018-11-10 18:53

    There were several times in the first 100 pages that I wondered if I should finish this book. I did, and that turned out to be a good thing. I teach history to high school freshmen and have always been fascinated by religious conflict and similarities between religions. As I read The Cauliflower, I was reminded of Christian figures who bore some of the same traits as Sri Ramakrishna: Jesus’ nonchalance in performing miracles; St. Francis and Brother Lawrence’s ability to see God in the ordinary; St. Ignatius’ devotion. Then, Barker made it clear she was connecting the religions by comparing Sri Ramakrishna to Mother Theresa – and then emphatically demonstrating their dissimilarity. But Sri Ramakrishna’s fundamental characteristic is that he is difficult to pin down: “Uncle was different, golden, oddly blessed, and ours.” With such a pedigree, leading with “different” has to be intentional.Barker also made apparent her desire to turn the social norms of India on their heads. She makes the female lead – Rani Rashmoni – an inheritor of a vast fortune. Furthermore, she is the legal beneficiary of the end of sati (or suttee in some books), or the practice of being burned on your husband’s funeral pyre. And Sri Ramakrishna himself chooses to abandon certain practices of the caste system and even goes through a period of cross-dressing. But, as his nephew points out, “…this is just life with Uncle…[n]ormal rules and conventions do not apply here.” And the deity that unites Sri Ramakrishna and the other characters, Ma Kali, known as the Black Goddess, is herself a bit of an outcast in the Hindu pantheon.Barker’s style is by turns pensive, playful, and quirky. She uses a non-linear and mutli-voiced structure told from the perspectives of both major and minor characters, with haikus spread throughout. My one complaint might be that the novel is too self-aware. The title is specifically referenced several times with TM attached and there are several parenthetical notes that act as winks to the reader. Barker even asks at one point: “Is this book a farce, comedy, a tragedy, or a melodrama?” However, although minutely distracting, I did not feel like this significantly detracted from the book’s value. Pick it up for a different religious perspective or a discussion of society or religion or cultural icons. 4 stars.Thanks to Librarything and Henry, Holt & Co for this ARC.

  • Maria Beltrami
    2018-12-04 14:48

    Alla fine dell'ottocento visse in India un santone, uno dei tanti, si potrebbe dire, che quella terra intrisa di misticismo sforna a profusione, se non che questo individuo, a differenza di quasi tutti gli altri, invece di trovare dio attraverso le scritture, lo andava cercando attraverso un rapporto personale, spesso apparendo, agli occhi delle persone normali, niente più che un pazzo furioso. Questo santo pazzo, o pazzo santo che dir si voglia, è tutt'ora conosciuto come Sri Ramakrishna, e questa è una specie di biografia non autorizzata e piuttosto divertente, che racconta la sua storia mettendola in alcuni punti a confronto con quella di Madre Teresa, anche se, secondo me Sri Ramakrishna assomiglia di più a San Francesco, sia dal punto di vista degli atteggiamenti poco ortodossi sia dal punto dei risultati nel campo della ricerca della fede.La struttura del romanzo è piuttosto insolita, e questo a volte ne rende difficile la lettura, senza contare che nell'ultima parte viene dato eccessivo spazio dato alle lamentazioni di Hridayram, nipote e servitore un po' infedele del guru.Ringrazio William Heinemann e Netgalley per avermi fornito una copia gratuita in cambio di una recensione onesta.The late nineteenth century a holy man lived in India, one of many, you could say, that that land imbued of mysticism produces in abundance, if not this individual, unlike almost all the others, instead of finding God through scripture, was looking through a personal relationship, often appearing in the eyes of ordinary people, nothing more than a madman. This holy fool, or fool holy, if you prefer, is still known as Sri Ramakrishna, and this book is a kind of unauthorized and quite funny biography, that tells his story comparing it in some points with the one of Mother Teresa , although, in my opinion Sri Ramakrishna looks more like St. Francis, both from the point of view of the unorthodox attitudes both in terms of results in research of the faith.The structure of the novel is quite unusual, and this sometimes makes it difficult to read, not to mention that in the last part too much space is given to the lamentations of Hridayram, niece and a little infidelservant of the guru.Thank William Heinemann and Netgalley for giving me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  • Julie
    2018-11-30 15:09

    Not this time. Not in this telling. Not here. Not with sugar. Not so far as we are aware. No. The story of Sri Ramakrishna started with salt. Salt...What I expected:It was the description that enticed me! I expected something that was a bit different, with an Indian twist, to add a different edge, seeing as it was about an Indian guru.What it was:I will say here and now that, sadly, it did not meet my expectations. It was a mishmash of a supposed historical story, mixed in with fantastical scenes inserted into the rhetoric. I found it a very hard book to get into and, I ended up starting it three times in the end! Then, when I finally got started, it seemed to take an age to 'just read'. I took the book up because of the book's intriguing description, but found that it really was not for me. It turned out to be a book of 'really random rot'! (My apologies to the author!) In parts, I found it repetitive in its narrative, and it jumped about, A LOT! There were parts that I think were meant to be light hearted, but which (by then) I just found irritating, for example the episode with the Indian swift ( Cypselus-affinis), which I found ridiculous in the main; I would say more, but I am very 'anti-spoiler'. By the end, any affinity with characters had gone (if I had any to start with). I simply finished the book because I had been given a copy to review and my perceived obligation outweighed the need to just put the book down.I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

  • Ally
    2018-11-14 22:48

    This story rather resembles a cauliflower - told in sections and nodes. Each node is a vignette in the life of Sri Ramakrishna, a historical and spiritual figure born in 1836 in West Bengal, India. Through the vignettes, the reader gains an understanding of this man, through actual and imagined interactions with those around Ramakrishna. The vignettes are not always presented in chronological order, so some overlap of events occurs. This wasn't deal-breaker for me, but it did make for a challenging reading experience. Trying to keep names, dates, and people (especially in families) from getting mixed together was definitely part of the process.One important point is that none of the vignettes are told from Ramakrishna's point of view. He is given no voice in this story. The text is exclusively from the perspective of a few particular narrators - two European colonial explorers, Ramakrishna's nephew Hriday, and an unnamed third party. So everything that Ramakrishna says and does is interpreted through the lens of whomever is transmitting the information.In this way, the author plays with the idea of legend/fact/story/history/mythology/truth and how indistinct they really are. Many of the events in Sri Ramakrishna's life seem to be the stuff of legend and lore, but they may also be completely factual. It's up to the reader to decide how to interpret and comprehend them. And in that way, the author's work continues.NOTE: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review, as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer's Program.