Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

buy us books !
Amazon wishlist

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

White Man Falling

Mike Stocks

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase White Man Falling

Title: White Man Falling
Author: Mike Stocks
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006
Length: 285 pages
Availability: White Man Falling - US
White Man Falling - UK
White Man Falling - Canada

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

A- : very nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New Statesman . 2/10/2006 Mary Fitzgerald
The Spectator . 28/10/2006 Digby Durrant
The Times . 23/9/2006 Andy Heath

  From the Reviews:
  • "The writing is witty and engaging, but Mike Stock's use of rhetorical questions is contrived, and he is guilty of stereotyping: the townspeople are gullible, superstitious and unsophisticated. That said, this is an entertaining read" - Mary Fitzgerald, New Statesman

  • "The narration examines their thoughts, seasoning information with wryly implicit comment. Occasionally it is tinged with a pomposity that increases our appreciation of Swami’s silence, at other times it steps back and lets humour flow from the well-drawn characters’ conversation. " - Andy Heath, The Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       White Man Falling is set in southern India, in the town of Mullaipuram in Tamil Nadu, and centred around the family of R.M.Swaminathan (known as Swami), a former police sub-inspector disabled by a stroke. He has six daughters, the oldest, Jodhi, already in college, the youngest just eleven. His wife's major concern is how they will ever marry off the girls, as it's hard enough raising them on Swami's half-pay pension, much less getting together the necessary dowries.
       Swami also despairs over his lot, and is frustrated by an inability to communicate because of the stroke -- it takes him tremendous effort to get any words out. He has, however, memorized the 1330 sacred couplets of the Tirukkural by Tiruvalluvar (one of the greatest Tamil poets; the collection is available in a Penguin Classics edition (as The Kural)). One of the ways Swami communicates is by referring to specific couplets by number -- a sort of shorthand that sends his family scurrying for the book to decode what he means.
       Swami likes to get out, either limping around on foot for very short expeditions, or letting himself get pushed in a wheelchair. It is on one of these excursions that a life-changing event occurs: a white man falls from the sky, nearly landing on him, and dies at his feet. The man fell out of the Hotel Ambuli -- Mullaipuram's finest establishment -- and the circumstances surrounding his plunge find Swami drawn into something of a drama. Except, of course, that the crippled Swami can only play the role on his very limited terms -- confusing and confounding everyone else.
       Among those with an interest in the matter are DDR -- "Doraisamy Devanamapettai Rajendran, the filthy-rich domineering Mr Mullaipuram" whose hotel it is -- as well as several members of the police force, including a former colleague of Swami. Swami is pulled into the investigation, as eyewitness, and an escalating series of misunderstandings (and very guilty consciences) lead everyone to think Swami is stirring up trouble about it. Swami -- who can barely get a word out under the best of circumstances -- is haplessly dragged into it all and can't clear anything up.
       Meanwhile, on the homefront, Swami's wife is trying to arrange to marry Jodhi off, and has found the perfect candidate, but Swami's sudden involvement in all these unsettling events complicates matters. (The prospective groom's reliance on self-help books such as How to Attract Women ultimately also don't help matters .....)
       Swami knows that as far as the official inquiries go:

Only because no one is interested in what I do or say am I being asked to do something and say something.
       But ultimately his physical inability to say much of anything makes him a figure of greater and greater interest to all concerned. Swami just goes about and does his thing -- limited though that is -- and after a while everybody starts to think he's onto something. And after a near-death experience -- a suicide and murder attempt gone bad -- there's no going back. "Swami's imperturbable aura of calm" impresses greatly, and his silence is not seen as stonewalling (or mere physical incapacity) but as wisdom. DDR is impressed enough to change his ways -- though not enough to forget about marketing this new phenomenon properly -- and Swami becomes revered Swamiji.
       Followers flock to him, expecting more than he can offer
     It's always like this -- isn't it ? -- when some poor devil gets a fistful of the spiritual rammed into his life. Everyone else wants it too, and in their desperation to get it they trample dirt all over its essence -- because that essence is far simpler than they can see, and much more limited than they are prepared to accept.
       But Swami, ever unresponsive, does offer people what they need: they believe in him, and find the answers they are looking for. Swamiji is a creation of others, but Swami always remains true to himself, with the two worlds fairly happily overlapping.
       Stocks pulls it all off because he writes very well and presents the story charmingly. Swami's family is enormously appealing, their domestic concerns, fights, and lies offering a believable glimpse of contemporary Indian life. The contrast between tradition and modernity is particularly well (and never condescendingly) presented, and the bustling town vividly realised.
       The storylines -- the investigation into the white man's death, Jodhi's marriage prospects, Swami's transformation into Swamiji -- are nicely presented and woven together. If there's any weakness it's in the resolutions: the white man remains something of a mystery figure (and the explanations for the circumstances surrounding his death aren't particularly convincing) and Jodhi's future is a bit too easily tied up. Even Swamiji's fate seems a bit too good to be true -- but in it's almost fairy-tale like innocence it is excusable enough.
       Less convincing with its message (of Swami's 'wisdom') than it probably wants to be, Stocks nevertheless did well in not trying to make too much out the Swami-figure. As is, he's sympathetic, and the book as a whole a very enjoyable read.

- Return to top of the page -


White Man Falling: Reviews: Mike Stocks: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction
  • See Index of literature from and about India

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Mike Stocks is a British author.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2007-2010 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links