Sleeping on Jupiter
Quercus Books /MacLehose Press
Sleeping on Jupiter takes place over five days in the fictional Indian town of Jarmuli, a city situated by the ocean and the home of several famous temples. In it we follow the interweaving strands of a young woman Nomi, returning to a city she left as a child to film a documentary on the area; Suraj, a failed actor and photographer Nomi has hired to assist her; Johnny Toppo, the man running a tea-stall on the beach, who sings the same songs that Nomi absent-mindedly hums, three old women having a holiday together; and Badal, a temple guide in his 20s, who feels put upon, is in lust, and feels life owes him something.
The book gets off to an amusing and engaging start. There is a scene near the start when the three old woman and Nomi are on the same train, sharing the same carriage, and Nomi gets off at a station and seems to be caught at the centre of a violent event which is full of tension. But from that point onwards the book left me a bit unengaged. It didn’t work for me. I failed to really engage in any of the characters – partly because Roy has failed to really flesh them out enough, and because of that I didn’t really care what happened to any of them. And this is a shame as Nomi’s story is a horrible – how can one not feel touched by the abuse and torture of orphaned and war-affected children. But this was a problem, I felt I should have cared more. Yes, I did care about what had happened in her past but I found it harder to care much about her at all now.
Clearly the fact it made the Booker long list meant that others clearly saw something more here than I did. For me though, it is a fairly average novel.