59. Narcopolis, by Jeet Thayil (2012)
This is another from this year's Booker short list.
A first novel, Narcopolis is about the owners, workers and patrons of a drug den in Mumbai.Thayil succeeds in making all of his characters at least somewhat sympathetic, without obscuring the damage that drug dependence does to them. He writes about an insular little world that rarely looks out beyond the khana and the surrounding slum. The novel has a light touch, with some laugh out loud moments. (I really enjoyed a sly dig at the song "Down Under"). The author gets a little into the metaphysical, as well as touching on love, death, plural marriage, the caste system, Hindu-Muslim rivalries, etc. He packs a lot in.
I really enjoyed this, and it's a lightning read. Was it better than the winner, Bring Up the Bodies? Heck, how can you even begin to compare this book to a giant piece of historical fiction surrounding the downfall of Anne Boleyn? Chalk and cheese; I really don't envy the Booker judges.
I'm already reading my 60th (and 61st) book, so looks like I'll have no trouble hitting my revised target.