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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor

Kapoor's gritty New Delhi-set novel explores brutal violence and cruelties in an exploration of class divides and the destructive power of corruption and wealth, with tragic outcomes.

The city is bad, they say, it’s full of con men, criminals, it’s ugly and dirty, it’s no good, only rich people do well, everyone else suffers.

Deepti Kapoor's Age of Vice shifts through time and points of view to explore outrageous wealth, ruthless business deals, class divides, violence, and political corruption in contemporary India.

From bustling New Delhi to dusty small towns, Kapoor's story tracks intertwined stories of servants, heirs, gangsters, and journalists in this story, which is both a gritty thriller and also a story of loyalties and families upended by greed, betrayal, and trauma.

Kapoor dives into the outrageous reach of control, money, and privilege of the power players in New Delhi and frequently contrasts it with the haunting desperation, uncertainty, and hunger of the poor classes.

To say Age of Vice is gritty is putting it mildly; there are repeated instances of rape, killing, various avenues of widespread and destructive corruption, human trafficking, and prison perversions. Characters frequently abuse drugs and alcohol and pursue self-destructive patterns that ruin the lives of the vulnerable in their orbits. Privileged protagonists display cruelty and a disassociation from morality. There are few direct consequences.

Tragically misplaced loyalty and love--or what passes for it--hurt those who dare to show vulnerability. The story spins maniacally toward a crescendo of tragedy in Kapoor's long, often brutal tale (the print book is 544 pages; the audiobook is 19.5 hours long).

India's capital city serves as an important main character here, and in Age of Vice, New Delhi's cacophony of sights and sounds--as well as the starkness of its class divides--serves as a constant backdrop to a story that hinges on: broken leadership and citizens who suffer deeply because of it; hopes for a glittering future and the poor who are pushed out or destroyed in pursuit of modernity; and the terrifying marriage of political corruption and the criminal underworld that funds the area's development and crooked dealings.

As the book went on, I found myself regularly cringing over what horror might possibly come next, and at times it felt as thought the violence were gratuitous, but the strong sense of the city and the explorations of societal divides kept me interested in the outcomes for various players.

I received an audiobook edition of this novel courtesy of Libro.fm's Audiobook Listening Copy (ALC) program and Penguin Random House Audio.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Click here to find my Bossy reviews of other novels set in India.

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