The Paradise Trail, By Duncan Campbell
Sunday 24 August 2008
Hippy dreams crumble into nightmare in this lively, well-researched novel. On the day of his finals in economics, Anand discovers that he has inherited the Lux Hotel in Calcutta, and, happy to forego Edward Heath's England – atmospherically evoked – he fantasises about transforming it into a utopia for literary types. But his grand plans don't add up, as he returns to an India poised on the brink of war.
The trope of freedom and escape is explored through the motley cast flung together in Calcutta: a 26-year-old who has left his job to escape "the pointlessness of career, the chains of permanent relationship"; a war journalist; and a Californian photographer.
Far from finding themselves, though, they become lost in a fog of hashish, confusion and suspicion. Two deaths at the hotel reveal that there's a worm in paradise. Duncan Campbell skilfully traces how the paradise trail upon which these naive hopefuls stumble leads painfully back to the very selves they had hoped to flee.
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