The first part of the novel strikes quite a contrast to the latter part. It starts off as a story about a certain Adrian Finn and three lesser mortals as his friends, one of whom is the narrator himself. Adrian Finn is clearly a genius, but not in terms of how most of us in India would classify a genius as. Instead of excelling at mathematics or science, which is the general idea of exceptional talent in our society, Adrian Finn is a prodigy in the fields of philosophy, logic and literature. Indeed, the book is filled with philosophical citations which often make the reader keep the book down for a bit to contemplate on those ideas precisely. Examples of such thought-provoking phrases include “Camus said that suicide was the only true philosophical question” and “What possible evolutionary purpose could nostalgia serve?”. The ability of this piece of literature to make the reader contemplate and think of experiences from his own life is perhaps its biggest strength.
The transition from a light story of four carefree college friends looking for intellectual and sexual fulfilment to the rather gloomy self-realizations that the author undergoes in the latter part of the novel is actually quite subtle. For instance, the following description occurring towards the beginning of the novel is clearly meant in jest – “Our parents thought we might be corrupted by one another into becoming whatever it was they most feared: an incorrigible masturbator, a winsome homosexual, a recklessly impregnatory libertine. On our behalf they dreaded the closeness of adolescent friendship, the predatory behaviour of strangers on trains, the lure of the wrong kind of girl. How far their anxieties outran our experience.”.
But the thin line between jest and seriousness becomes increasingly blurry as the novel progresses, as reflected in the following quote from later in the novel – “Some Englishman once said that marriage is a long dull meal with the pudding served first.”