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  1. Sleeping On Jupiter is extremely neutral. Yes, really. Some of the writing is good, the characters are clear cut, but overall it is very, very meh. Part of the shortcoming is that the novel features three stories all set in the coastal town of Jarmuli. One is the story of Nomi, an Indian refugee returning on a filming mission to the scene of some atrocities she experienced in childhood. The second is the story of Gouri, Latika and Vidya, three older women on holiday and trying to cope with Gouri’s dementia. The third is the story of some of the beach boys who sell tea and guided tours to the visitors. The three stories all touch on one another, but the linkages manage to be both insufficiently substantial and overly coincidental to make for a single story. Sometimes three stories can nevertheless rub along, perhaps through creating the location as the star of the story, but this never quite happens. Instead, the reader tries to fill in gaps and spot linkages whilst not appreciating the stories that actually are on the page. Some commentators have said that Anuradha Roy has created a good sense of place. I tend not to agree. Although some of the individual details are right – the interior of the Indian Railways carriage; the tea cart on the beach, overall Jarmuli doesn’t feel right. It feels too small, too empty. There are no characters other than those named in the text – no background crowds or incidental people. There seems to be no employment, no industry, no hinterland. Just a temple, a couple of hotels, and a very unspecific place where children were detained many years ago. The ages also don’t seem to tie up. Nomi is supposed to be a young woman – almost of backpacker age – yet she treats the land she left at the age of 12 as though it was some vague memory from early childhood. She is supposed to be the contemporary of one of the beach boys, yet the elderly women are supposed to be just one generation above the beach boys. It doesn’t quite add up. Sleeping On Jupiter is not a terribly demanding read. It does have some scenes of brutality and unhappiness, but they do not dominate the story. Mostly it is a novel about a beach holiday, suitable for reading on a beach holiday. And like that beach holiday, it slips away quite quickly without leaving much lasting impression. That such an ordinary novel is long-listed for the 2015 Booker Prize, and that it sits somewhere in the middle of my 2015 Booker reads, really speaks volumes for the poor selection made by this year’s Booker judges. ***00
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