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Disclaimer: This review has not been commissioned by the Author even though I wish it was :D But Amazon! You have killed my profession.
India's first composite novel.
Sounds very cool yet at the same time I had a slight doubt when I first got this from the publisher Readomania for reviewing. Cool, due to the fact that we are notching up the genres that we present out to the world. On one side if we have embraced the nocturnal creatures and on the other hand, we have Titles to showcase along with The Arabian Nights and The Canterbury Tales. So presenting to the world of 'composite novel' we too have a book on that shelf - Crossed & Knotted.
And this is exactly where my doubts came in. Are our writers equipped to spin tales which are connected to each other and yet autonomous in their own rights? And that too not one but 14 authors together. That must have been some herculean task. Moreover I was very eager to find out what was the thread that bound the 14 authors together. What made them declare this new venture as a "composite novel"?
All the 14 short stories are bound together by their characters. I found that very interesting. As a writer, we often suppress the secondary characters in our stories, limiting ourselves to the POV of our protag. Imagine here. All your secondary character take a life of their own. In short, a small world by itself.
Keeping in with the true essence of a composite novel, one can truly say that every protag of the short stories has stood out on their own yet merged subtly in the other stories. The novel starts with A Curious Dalliance of Sutapa Basu where we are introduced to Sudip Roy. A simpleton, who wanted to lead a simple,middle class, married life. But when life teaches him about the survival of the fittest, he learns it fast. As an introduction, Sutapa Basu was impactful in drawing the attention of the readers into the novel.
Sudip's daughter Shivi takes the story further in The Diary of Josheph Varughese by Ayan Pal and the theme of the seemingly perfect murder continues. A character, which a reader had caught the glimpse of comes in front of you in the consecutive chapters. Interesting.
Another fact I noticed in all the stories are the reality bites. From the plane crash in Kotteswaran (Web of Life by Sanchita Sen Das) to the German Bakery Blast in Mumbai (For a Speck of a Moment by Amrit Sinha), all the incidents created the backdrop of the stories. Brought back many memories we want to erase yet kept me as reader submerged to the stories.
Since it is an anthology, some are hits and some are misses. That does not reflect on the writers here since all the stories are very well written and equally well edited. ( In today's literary world, a rare phenomena) But here I have to mention one story. Deepti Menon's The Dragon Lady. While all the stories told tales of heart wrenching situations and equally 'crime parfaits', The Dragon Lady, aptly named Kamu, took away the tension that was building up till then.
"Punishments had no effect on her and she would stride out of the classroom emitting fire through her nostrils."
A very pleasant break from the myriad of crime and punishments. Rightly placed midway of the composite novel as Chapter 9. Kudos to the compiler.Gives the reader the right kind of break to read the upcoming fascinating stories.
Was it true to the genre?
To a large extent, I would say yes. But one character perplexed me. Binoy, the youngest son of Kamu , the Dragon Lady. He carries two stories on his shoulders, after making an appearance in The Dragon Lady. 'For a Speck Of A Moment' by Amrit Sinha and 'To Ma & Ma, Con Amore!' by Monika Nair. The thread broke for a moment. Binoy got married twice? And if Binita is his first love, why is there no residue of the grief in the second innings? A line or two mentioning his previous love in the story by Monika Nair would have been a great continuity. Especially after a tragedy of such a magnitude had touched his life. A memory will prevail and cannot be ignored.
A very same situation with Meena has been handled very well in the stories 'Look Beyond' by Amar Lakshya Pawar and 'Dawn at Dusk' by Bhuwaneshwari Shankar. That is what a reader would expect for Binoy too.
The last chapter 'The Last Act' by Arpita Banerjee gave the novel a closure. The novel ended with the character it had started with. I liked the concept of the "full circle" but there were two things that did not work with me here. Firstly, monologue of the man on a 'deathbed; and the duplicity of the doctor. It felt too contrived. Specially with Pragya being a doctor. Moreover, it appeared unethical and did not gell well with the character of the doctor.
Would I recommend the book ?
Yes. Most definitely. Don't expect it to be a one time read or a light read. You will be drawn into the stories and will often find yourself going back and forth, to find out who appeared in which story. Sort of like an actor in a special appearance in a movie and you will soon find yourself cheering when one of the characters in a previous story, who had left a mark on you, reappearing again. Powerful.
Line that Stayed with me ...
Her soul gave up a silent prayer: May all the victims of the Kotteswaran air tragedy, at least, find loving families and happy peaceful lives in this this birth.
The Web of Life by Sanchita Sen Das
Amen to that! Lets wish the same for the victims of Nepal Earthquake Tragedy.
THIS REVIEW IS A PART OF A BLOG TOUR BY THE BOOK CLUB.CHECK OUT THE BLOG TOUR DETAILS HERE.