Review: The Golden Gate

The Golden Gate- Vikram Seth
The Golden Gate- Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth’s first novel , The Golden Gate is a novel in verse about the lives of few young people in San Francisco. Its unique nature of narration and the fact that he took such a risk in his very first novel is laudable.

Written in the format of Onegin stanzas, which are sonnets written with the rhyme scheme of ababccddeffeg, in iambic tetrameter, the book is said to be inspired by Charles Johnston’s translation of Pushkin’s 1833 Russian classic, Eugene Onegin. The act of writing a novel in itself a difficult feat, to manage to do so in verse cannot have been easy at all and this is what makes one revere the book. The publishers might not have been expecting much from this book given its unique storytelling format, but it received wide acclaim from peers and critics and also managed healthy sales.

When I picked up the book, it was keeping the above mentioned factors in mind. I thought it would be interesting to read such a novel, since I like poetry and prose with an almost equal affection, I was very happy with this acquisition. The start was great, the verse flowed, the story went along smoothly, not at all obstructed by its narration and it was a great feeling to realize the balance between adherence to rhyme scheme and keeping the integrity of the story.

Alas, the constant tap tap tap and beats of the verse began to tire me out. It became slightly irritating to have to read it in verse when one felt that it could have gone on much better in simple prose. But here I think the distinction lies between the heart matter of the story- its plot and its vehicle – it’s format and narration. It began to seem that story in itself was not much remarkable, and it was all about the format. And that’s when you lose interest. The story doesn’t seem to take you anywhere, at the pace with which you want it to. The rhyme began to seem more contrived, as if a simple table had been covered with a jarring tablecloth in order to make it look better than what it actually is. And that is where a book begins to fail for me, where it stops being true to itself and works around the peripherals to do its work.

Read the complete review here.

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