Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book Review: BRADSTREET GATE

Title: Bradstreet Gate
Author: Robin Kirman
Publisher: Crown
Pages:  320









Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman follows the lives of three friends, Alice, Charlie and Georgia, in Harvard.

Charlie, Alice and Georgia are all troubled in their own ways. Georgia, whose artist father and teacher mother have separated, has had her nude photos shot and displayed by her father. Alice, daughter of Serbian immigrants, watches as her father adopts the American Dream with gusto while her mother clings to the Serbia that she has lost. Charlie, second son of his father, is increasingly disillusioned with his father, who distances himself from him and takes visible pride in his older, more macho son.

While in college, Georgia is enamoured with Rufus Storrow, a very popular and much admired professor, and she begins an affair with him. It is a relationship fraught with peril, for even though Georgia is not his student, the affair could still cost him his job and ruin him. 

Before long, Georgia is disillusioned with Storrow and she breaks up the affair, even as he uses his physical might to try to bully her into staying. Storrow’s insensitivity regarding the subject he teaches, Law and the Colonials, makes him more detractors than admirers. His fiercest detractor is Julie Patel, daughter of Indian immigrants.

When Alice, a budding writer, discovers the affair, she writes an article for the college magazine, exposing everything, sparing no details and widening the gap between herself and Georgia. The affair changes the dynamics of their friendship too. The news of the affair upsets Charlie, who has long adored Georgia, but has never been taken for anything more than a friend.

For Storrow, it is a fall from grace that unravels him. While he is not implicated of the murder, for lack of evidence, he isn’t completely exonerated either.

After college ends, and they get out into the real world, frustrations continue to dog them. Ten years later, not one of them is truly happy.

Charlie is the only one to have a measure of professional success, but even he finds it disillusioning.

It is in Mumbai where Georgia goes in pursuit of a volunteering job that she meets Storrow again, five years later. The descriptions of Mumbai are true to the impressions of a first-time visitor from the West, the chaos of sound, the smells and the stench, and the madness that they see, all perfectly regulated by some invisible means. 

But this part of the story serves no real purpose. Having taken Georgia to India and leaving her frustrated there when her passport is stolen and it turns out the volunteering job is fake, Robin does not bother to tell us about how she gets out of India and heads to Kenya.


Even though it seems as if the murder might take centre stage, the book isn’t about the murder at all. The mystery of who killed Julie is not resolved, not even 10 years later, when the class prepares to meet for her 10 year memorial service.

Robin reveals the characters in the best way possible, dropping stray hints here and there that say more about each character than whole paragraphs could have. That Nat Krauss, the Harvard reporter, brings his muddy feet into somebody’s house tells us that he is sloppy and careless of others’ feelings. Georgia’s own careless attire tells us about how her priorities have changed.


The Prologue is set in the present and Chapter 1 takes us back to the past 10 years ago into Georgia’s life. Thereafter, each chapter, almost biographical, takes us into the first person accounts of each of the friends, starting from their birth, childhood and early family life, in an attempt to help us understand their unique personalities and their motivations. These details, it is hoped, will help us understand their reasons for coming to Harvard.

Robin takes us into the lives of the three friends. She forces us inside the minds of the characters, giving us a deeper understanding of the events of their lives. The secrecies, the jealousy, the loss of love, the frustrations, and amid them all, the murder.

Georgia, Alice and Charlie are friends, but it is a friendship marked by needs and wants. Only Charlie’s friendship seemed genuine, and for much of the time, he didn’t seem to really care for Alice.

Robin’s characterization skills make the characters appear all too real, not stylized and fit to be within the pages of a book. Of the three, I liked Alice the least. She struck me as hollow, empty and yet she had her own motivations, strong ones, that led her to act the way she did.

The ending, though far from abrupt (it does, after all, offer closure to the characters), still gives us a sense of having faded off into nothing. The elaborate explanation of Storrow’s past shed no further light on the mystery and enigma of the man who started out as such a paragon of perfection and lost the plot along the way.

The plot is non-linear, and the narrator slips into the past and present now and again. It is a device which keeps the stories of all the three characters real, but doesn’t allow us to identify completely with any one of them.

I tried to like this book, but it didn’t really stay with me.


"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."








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