R. K. Narayan’s The Guide came onto my radar a few years ago. I bought the paperback at the time but I did not read and traded back in at the local used bookstore here in San Antonio. Well, this novel has returned to my attention and I decided to read it.
The Guide is the story of Raju, an Indian tourist guide who is trying to make a living at best as possible. However, he becomes mistaken for a holy man and gets involved with a romance that nearly brings him to ruin. This novel explores the depth a man will go to keep his appearance like he has everything under control. But, he truly does not.
In reading this novel, I felt this deep sense of sadness of how Raju’s life changes throughout the book. Narayan’s prose is straight-forward, blunt, and doesn’t create any warmth for his protagonist.
I must admit I wanted to read more about the imagined city of Malgudi (where most of Narayan’s novels are set) but the focus of the novel was on Raju’s destructive behavior.
The Guide is well-regarded on the world literature stage and I can see why that kind of praise has been awarded to this book. However, I liked this novel more than I loved it. I would recommend other novels by Indian writers like Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, or The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph instead of this one.