Most of this novel takes place in and around London. Both the place and the time are important in the setting. As Michael Frame, the time is 1998. Michael is afraid of being identified, so he leads a very passive and secluded life. He hopes the 1960s are well behind him. However, when Miles (a character from the past) appears, Michael’s thoughts and the story return to 1968.

Although the United Kingdom was not involved in the Vietnam War, the protests that are occurring in the States during the 1960s have affected the British youth. This is true in France, Germany, and Italy also. Historically, the British protest did not receive as much press as other European and American protests did. This fact is played out in the novel through the statements that the British press all but refused to relay events that are occurring. Bombs are going off; youthful squatters are taking over vacant factories and dilapidated houses and setting up unofficial youth hostels. Crimes, such as car theft and grocery store burglaries, are on the rise. Sometimes police ignore these activities; other times, they come in force and bust the groups, taking several to jail. But still the stories do not appear in the British press. This is quite different is happening in the United States and in other European cities.

Through several of the characters, the author shows the contrast of peoples lives between what they did in the 1960s and later in the 1990s. Miranda is a good example of this contrast. In the 1960s, she lived a hippie life, wanting little material wealth and living simply. Miranda and Michael got along well during these early years. But by the time the 1990s rolled in, Miranda had turned her homemade business into an industry. In the 1960s, Miranda created natural cosmetic lotions in her kitchen. But in the 1990s, she dresses in corporate style clothes, has a factory, and is considering retail storefronts. She holds dinner parties for people she does not really like but who can help her expand her business. In other words, she is now in business to make a lot of money.

Another character that goes through a similar change, reflecting the difference between 1960s counterculture and 1990s business culture, is Patricia Ellis. Patricia had been a young lawyer just out of school in the 1960s. She worked, at that time, for the “people,” helping to defend young people who were protesting the war and seeking some kind of revolutionary change in the capitalist society in London. But by the 1990s, Patricia has dropped all her ideals and is rapidly climbing up the political ladder, gaining more and more power each year.

My Revolutions

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 2)

Hari Kunzru’s third novel, My Revolutions, is difficult to categorize, since it fits into several categories, none of which dominates the others. It is something of an historical novel, a political treatise, a coming-of-age work, and a pseudo-autobiography, all packaged in one work.

The main character is Michael Frame, something of a househusband living in the London suburbs, where he is married to the successful businesswoman Miranda Martin and where he also serves as father to her daughter Samantha. The opening event of the novel is preparation for Michael’s fiftieth birthday. Slowly, readers learn that he is not Michael Frame, because this is an assumed identity, and that it is not really his fiftieth birthday. His real name and his previous life had been that of Chris Carver, a product of lower-middle-class English society who during the 1960’s had been a student at the London School of Economics. While there, he became involved in protests against the Vietnam War, and, subsequently, he became more than a student radical; he became a political terrorist, robbing banks and blowing up the post office. He has been in hiding for most of three decades, and one day he is spotted by a former associate from those days in the 1960’s. Time catches up with him at long last.

The narrative is unusually complicated and sometimes difficult to follow because the author intermingles the present1998with flashbacks and updates; moreover, he does not always cue the reader as to the changes in time, location, and event. The only consistency here is point of view, which is always that of Michael/Chris. This rather dysfunctionally organized plot is at first confusing, and it remains so. Still, it serves well to reflect the chaos of the times and the fractured nature of the main character’s life.

As something of a historical novel, My Revolutions has at its base the 1971 bombing of the London Post Office by a group known as the Angry Brigade. Kunzru has also taken, very loosely, historical events surrounding the Stoke Newington Eight trial in 1972, for which several defendants received lengthy prison sentences for their politically motivated, yet highly illegal, activities. As a work about politics and the political system, the novel is full of characters who voice differing opinions and ideologies. They are concerned with the problems of the system, the best means for correcting it, and the most effective manner to get “the people” involved in this would-be “revolution.” Michael is the character most torn: While he had given his youth to this revolution that never happened, he is now living a false life as a kept member of the capitalist society who is in no way doing his part to support himself or anyone else. His wife takes care of him financially; his part-time job at the bookstore is little more than a daily planned escape from the home. Chris never comes of age, even as he grows into his new identity as Michael; nor does he as Michael, the suburbanite househusband and father. Unable to accept himself as Michael, who is being “outed” by Miles Bridgeman, a slippery character from those days in the 1960’s, and, similarly unable to acknowledge himself even as the ex-Chris, he fumbles along, running from both the past and the present. All of this is accomplished in a work that reads largely as an autobiography, though, clearly it is not: Kunzru was born only in 1969; this aspect of the story line, while completely manufactured, is done so successfully.

The first major flashback occurs during the preparations for Michael’s fiftieth birthday party, when he recalls a recent vacation he and Miranda made to France. While walking along in a small town, looking at the architecture and enjoying the sunshine, he sees a woman he thinks is Anna Addison, his former lover and a leader of a...

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My Revolutions Bibliography

British Broadcasting Channel. [cited March 31, 2008]. "Learning English—Moving Words." In this audio file, Kunzru talks about words that move him.

Blythe, Will. 2008. “Underground Man.” In the New York Times, February 10, p. BR12. This is a positive review and summary of Kunzru’s novel.

Clark, Alex. 2007. “Left Luggage.” In (London) Times Literary Supplement, No. 5447/5448, p. 24. Clark provides a review of My Revolutions.

Griffiths, Sharon. 2007. “Kaftans and Bombings.” In (UK) Northern Echo, October 23, p. 28. This is a brief review of My Revolutions.

Guardian Online. [cited August 25, 2007]. “Don’t Call Me Comrade.” This is a review of My Revolutions.

Jabberwock. [cited August 31, 2007]. “My Revolutions Review, and an Interview with Hari Kunzru.” Read the author’s comments about writing this novel.

Paulson, Heather. 2008. “Review of My Revolutions.” In Booklist, vol. 104, no. 9/10, pp. 44-45. This is a brief review.

Reese, Jennifer. 2008. “Hippie Chic.” In Entertainment Weekly, no. 975, p. 72. Reese states this novel comes close to being a masterpiece.

Ulin, David L. 2008. “Running on Empty.” In Los Angeles Times, January 27, p. R.3.

My Revolutions Bibliography

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 2)

Booklist 104, nos. 9/10 (January 1, 2008): 44-45.

Entertainment Weekly, January 25, 2008, p. 72.

Kirkus Reviews 75, no. 22 (November 15, 2007): 1172.

Library Journal 132, no. 20 (December 15, 2007): 101.

The Nation 286, no. 16 (April 28, 2008): 36-39.

New Statesman 137 (September 10, 2007): 55-56.

The New York Times Book Review, February 10, 2008, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly 255, no. 8 (February 25, 2008): 72.

The Times Literary Supplement, August 24, 2007, p. 24.


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