Monday, January 14, 2008

The Elephanta Suite

by Paul Theroux

In a trio of novellas, Theroux takes us to India. Through the eyes of Americans, the reader discovers the beauty and the horror of the country.

Monkey Hill tells the tale of a wealthy couple visiting an exclusive spa in India. Both husband and wife encounter sexual temptation and its frightening aftermath.

The Gateway of India focuses on a lawyer and business man, Dwight Huntsinger. When the story begins, he is terrified of everything outside of his luxurious hotel room and the boardroom. By the time the story has ended, Dwight has become all too comfortable in the slums of Mumbai.

The Elephant God introduces us to Alice, a young woman who is touring India after her college graduation. When her traveling companion abandons her for a man, Alice is left to navigate the country by herself. Her independence leads her in many directions: a friendship with an elephant, a job teaching American accents, a sojourn at an ashram, and a terrifying encounter with young man.

Theroux ties the novellas together in only the most superficial way. The main characters of each novella encounter minor characters from the other novellas. Still, all three share the same theme: the terror of India for American tourists.


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