The review is a little lukewarm, but balanced on the whole; Bellague describes well what Kumar's style of writing does best. The following paragraph is pretty complimentary:
At its best, Kumar's reportage has the immediacy and respectful attention to detail of a well-turned Granta essay (it is no surprise to see Ian Jack, Granta's editor, cited in the acknowledgments). Picking his way through lives distorted or destroyed by hatred, Kumar alleviates his own -- and the reader's -- gloom by drawing attention to the fanatics' mordant eccentricities. In the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where Hindu nationalist cadres called kar-sevaks destroyed the Babri mosque in 1992, Kumar discovers that children now learn math by answering questions like, ''If it takes four kar-sevaks to demolish one mosque, how many does it take to demolish 20?'' He is dismayed that the nationalists have succeeded in making millions of Hindus feel embattled in a country where they form an overwhelming majority. But he is painfully aware that he himself is the anachronism, one of a dwindling band clinging to the secular ideals of India's first prime minister, Jawarharlal Nehru.
To which the joker in me adds: How many kar-sevaks does it take to go screw themselves?
But here is one of Bellague's criticisms:
Kumar the professor has an unfortunate way of intruding on Kumar the reporter. Thus he unnecessarily supplements his own neat description of Hindu political symbolism with the (borrowed) observation that televised Hindu epics had created "a shared symbolic lexicon around which political forces could mobilize communal praxis."
We learn much more when Kumar is describing small things impenetrable to outsiders, like the pungency of a communal slogan, the paradoxes and passions of South Asian cricket and the nuances of an Urdu story. Under the kitchen sink of his parents' home, one memorable childhood vignette runs, there was "a dirty glass and, beside it, a ceramic plate that was white with small pink flowers," reserved for a tubercular uncle. "The only other occasion when the plate and glass were taken out was when a Muslim driver who sometimes ate at our house needed to be fed."
Hm... I for one don't object to "Kumar the professor."
More comments once I've read the book.