I had high expectations when starting Moth Smoke, because I’d read The Reluctant Fundamentalist which I enjoyed a lot, and knew that other reviewers had found Moth Smoke even better.
I wasn’t let down entirely, because Moth Smoke is highly readable. The characters are real, their idiosyncrasies believable, their ironies and personal conflicts perfectly painted, and often very funny.
But where the novel failed for me (and it’s not a huge thing) was in the authenticity of the attraction between Daru and Mumtaz. Sure, I understand… why Daru, for his part, became infatuated with Mumtaz; what’s not to love about a highly idealistic, strong-willed, intelligent sexy young woman who by virtue of being married to his best friend is strictly off-limits. But Mumtaz? It’s not that I couldn’t believe she’d risk her marriage, her child, her whole way of life, in order to seek her own personal fulfillment. What I couldn’t envisage was that she’d do this all for Daru. Unmotivated, drug-addicted, arrogant, jealous Daru. He wasn’t in the slightest politically engaged, only mildly attractive, and clearly bitter with resentment (and therefore a drag to be around). He just didn’t strike me as Mumtaz’ (who has heroine status in this novel) type. Her ability to entwine her life with such a loser to such a great extent was really quite unbelievable.
But then hey… maybe it’s a story truer to life than I’m giving it credit for? People make crap decisions all the time without logical explanation.