Chetan Bhagat's Half Girlfriend Book Review

SPOILER ALERT: This review will kill every suspense. So read at your own risk.

Before you go further and make judgments about what are the authors whose works I have read in my lifetime, I have read books of close to 70 different authors starting from Sheldon, Dan Brown, Hosseini,Rushdie,Paulo Coelho, Arvind Adiga, Jhumpa Lahiri amongst numerous others.

There are two different reactions every Chetan Bhagat novel is familiar with.

1. Excitement from his fans like me
2. Troll-posts from people who are more used to reading works of literary geniuses and generally find Bhagat's writing utter trash.

When half-girlfriend was announced, there were mockeries across every social media site over the title of the book which was, by all means, extremely peculiar. In other news, there were, also, a large number of pre-orders.

With this, welcome to my review of Half-girlfriend.

Background:- A bihari guy, who can't speak fluent English, meets a rich Delhi girl who wants to break free from her money-minded parents and lavish lifestyle. Obviously they become friends and our hero, Madhav, who has developed a liking for her since the first time they met at the basketball trials for admission to St. Stephens through sports quota, tries his best to convey his feelings. Our heroine, Riya Somani, agrees and not agrees and proposes to be his half-girlfriend. Madhav, however, wants to eliminate fractions from his life and in the process loses Riya. In a dramatically Bollywoodish end to the first act, Riya gives her wedding card to Madhav and leaves him amidst tears to fly to London.

Our hero rejects a banking job and comes back to his village to help his mother run her school. In a sudden turn of events, Madhav finds himself, having had to deliver a speech in English to none other than Bill Gates in order to receive financial assistance for the school. He joins English classes at Patna and there he meets Riya once again, this time as a divorcee. Bollywood masala flavour comes in as Riya helps him prepare his speech and Madhav helps her to settle down. The speech to Mr. Gates goes amazingly well, grant of USD 40k is approved BUT Riya disappears. All Madhav gets at the end of act 2 is a letter from Riya and knows that she has lung cancer.

While he was narrating all this to Chetan Bhagat, he gets to read Riya's journals and learns that she faked her illness because she wanted to run away from Madhav. The rest of the book is about how Madhav goes all the way to New York to find her, visits some 250 bars with live music and just on the eve of his return flight to India meets up wih Riya to carve a perfect ending.

If you are still reading, I am extremely thankful to you.

My rating:-

Story: 7.5/10
Writint: 6/10
Overall: 9/10

Chetan Bhagat's Half-girlfriend won't give you the bliss of reading a literary wonder. It won't even give you any valuable perspective on any important issues that are plaguing the world or our country at present (you might want to read his What Young India Wants for that), you might even frown at the simply constructed English sentences intermixed with Hinglish and Hindi slangs (very few).

Yes, he is nowhere compared to other Indian authors like Jhumpa Lahiri, Ramachandra Guha, Khushwant Singh, Arundhati Roy, Arvind Adiga, Amitav Ghosh (I have read at least one book of each one of them). His novels also lack the degree of intensity like that found in Khaled Hosseini's work or say the level of spiritualism found in Paulo Coelho's writings.

But there is a reason why he is called the biggest selling English language novelist in India's history.

There is a reason why TIME magazine has included him in their list of 100 most influential people in the world.

And his Half-girlfriend does nothing but justice to these honours.

Madhav's struggles to cope up with English at St. Stephens, his inability to hold back his grudge "deti hain to de varna kat le", his dream to make his mother's school - the best rural school of India - in every page, in every line, we identify someone or a part of someone or our own self whom we have met in our real life. The dual dream Madhav carries in his heart - for his school and for Riya, the dream Riya pursues to take up singing in a club, the dream of Rani Sahiba - everywhere there is a connect to India and its people.

Bhagat's writing has taken itself on another plane from 2 states onwards. Revolution 2020 was a shot against corruption in Indian education and shower us how courageous journalism can be a potent weapon against corruption.

So what's the takeaway from Half-girlfriend? What difference can it bring to someone's life? More importantly why should someone read the book which is being mocked at since the date of its announcement?

So lets see.

Half-girlfriend teaches you that

1. If you are incapable of doing something today, it doesn't mean you can't master it tomorrow.
(Madhav Jha who couldn't pronounce English words properly managed to get an internship in the Bill Gates foundation)
2. If you dream big and the entire world calls you stupid, it can also mean that the world hasn't seen the best of you yet. (Riya did fulfill her dream of pursuing music as her profession)

India should read.

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