One Night at the Call Centre, by Chetan Bhagat

Shyam works in an Indian call centre: fed up with himself for losing his gorgeous girlfriend, and for letting himself be bossed about by an incompetent manager, this book covers the events of one night when something happens that changes everything.

This is quite a short book, and is bracketed by a fairly long forward and shorter postscript in which the author supposedly tells us about how he came to write it. And before all that, the reader is asked to think of the answer to three personal questions, with the promise that doing this will make the book more worthwhile.

The initial framing of the story in this way was very encouraging - you had the sense of preparing to settle down in a comfy armchair and be entertained, with the promise also that at the end of the book there'd be some kind of payoff for having puzzled over those three questions (you're enjoined not to proceed with the story until you've answered them).

But the story itself was DULL! Shyam, the narrator, starts off by saying how he's no good with long words (although he uses plenty of them through the book), but he certainly can't write. Passages which are meant to be funny are not, and his supposedly humourous observations don't raise even a hint of a smile. Maybe it's because I worked in a call centre myself, but there was nothing in here about this type of job that I found at all insightful or interesting.

There is a little bit of structure, with occasional flashbacks for Shyam tells the story of his breakup with Brianka(sp?), which alternate with the events of the night in question. From these, and the rest of the book, you get the feeling that she's well shot of him.

If the writing and story were better, I'd be more prepared to forgive the glaring implausibilities of the plot in the night in question. There's a "phone call from God", but what "God" says is just not that interesting. And there's a plot hatched by Shyam and his mates to rescue the workforce from redundancies which is just silly.

Still, I thought, it's only a short book, and at least I'll get to find out why I had to answer those questions before reading it. Err.. no I didn't. There was some passing reference but nothing to justify the build up at the start of the book.

Really poor.

Completed : 13-May-2009 (audiobook)

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