Book Reviews

Book Review: Half Girlfriend by Chetan Bhagat

As a writer, my primary concern when I pen anything is that whoever my audience is should be able to read what I’ve written and also be motivated to pick up a dictionary and learn more. While I’ve always understood the importance of being able to speak, read, and write English as a global language, I’ve never agreed to its being a determinant of your social standing. Your knowing English DOES NOT qualify you for a superior position anywhere in the society.

Which is why the blurb of CB’s new book had me all excited. CB is India’s blue-eyed author. He is the man who is largely responsible for propelling the youth to pick up a book and read. And when this man stands up and speaks about how and why your fluency in English does not define your character, people are bound to sit up and notice. I couldn’t wait and pre-ordered HG immediately.

The story is about Madhav, a young boy from Bihar who has almost everything going for him except for the fact that his English isn’t really great. Madhav falls for Riya, his college and basketball-mate. Riya’s fluency in the language is as great as Madhav’s is not. The blurb implies, in very indirect terms, that Riya disagrees to be Madhav’s girlfriend because of the language-divide between them. She suggests a compromise and becomes his half-girlfriend instead.

CB appeared on several print and television platforms to promote this book saying that through this book he attempts to bridge the language-divide. I was impressed. The book finally made its way to my home and I read with great excitement, because the cause it stood for is something I feel very deeply about.

The story is good – simple, straight, and beautiful (the end will make most girls go awww; it did that to me, yes). CB has this very specific style of writing, of the way his books are structured and he follows it for HG too. What I admire about his style of writing is that it is very relatable, very identifiable; it is easy for a reader to connect with his words. His characters are neatly sketched and the story has a good pace.

What disappointed me though is that the story is not really about the language-divide. Madhav and Riya cannot be together and that is because of the demons lurking in their respective pasts and presents and the demons they are afraid will turn up in the future. English, sadly, is one of the smaller demons.

What I would have liked to read about is how English would have kept the two lovers apart and how English would have brought them together; I would’ve liked to see how Madhav overcomes the language barrier to make Riya his full-girlfriend! Although, these two events do happen, they aren’t as deeply connected as is being built up. I would have liked the story to revolve more around the language-divide than it does presently.

But all said, CB does yet again what he does best. And the book definitely qualifies as a comfort read.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Half Girlfriend by Chetan Bhagat

  1. I am happy to know you enjoyed the book. He and his books are a waste of time according to me. That said, I enjoyed reading your take on half a whatever from CB! 🙂
    Cheers n tc.

  2. Nikita, that was a great review. Your review made me want to read the book. Ultimately, no matter what the reputation of an author, each book deserves to be read on its own merit. No one is born a great author and with each book, his/her skills and craftsmanship as a writer grows. So, I don’t think it’s right to denounce CB because of what his earlier book/s may or may not have been. Just like a man cannot be hanged twice for a murder, similarly

      1. Sorry for the hanging last sentence…but WP gobbled up my words. The last line should have read: Just like a man cannot be hanged twice for a murder, similarly an author shouldn’t be judged solely by his previous work.

  3. Well written Nikita.. I am already half way through the book, and I agree wid u tat “English, sadly, is one of the smaller demons” and the story revolves more around their character due to differences in their upbringing..

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