Thursday, June 15, 2017

Book Review: Ponni's Beloved - An English Translation Of Kalki Krishnamurthy's Ponniyin Selvan by Sumeetha Manikandan

Name of the Book: Ponni's Beloved
Author: Sumeetha Manikandan
Star Rating: 4 stars 
Goodreads: Read the Blurb here 

During the times when treason was a part of life and spies were roaming the streets of India, Ponni's Beloved is set during those times. A time when the Chola dynasty was at their zenith.

The story is introduced to the readers by a brave, young man, who is a great fighter too, and a messenger of Aditya Chola (forgive me if I got my history wrong). Aditya Chola, heir to the throne was suspecting a conspiracy and had sent Vandiya Devan to warn the King. In his journey, Vandiya Devan meets the different characters who play a role in the conspiracies, love affairs and secrets that generally go around in such princely dynasties.

Vandiya Devan introduces us to the lives of the natives at that period of time as he walks quietly on the banks of a  lake named Veeranarayana and introduces the readers to their way of life. Sumeetha Manikandan has done a fabulous job in capturing the essence of the great Tamil Literature. Though I have not read the original work, I have heard a lot about it from the Tamil side of my family. A revered literature, that is what this book is remembered as and I can understand this since, after so many years, even the translation has kept me enthralled enough to keep on turning the pages.

Many cultural appropriations have been mentioned in this text, which is typical of the thought process of the people of those times.

"But please don’t think that I am talking ill of them, the entire women race is like that. The women in your family are dark-complexioned beauties, whereas Pazhuvetarayar’s beloved is fair complexioned. That’s why they don’t like her. They are jealous...”

As you delve further into the story, such small incidents are mentioned which will help in painting the visuals of those times.

Keeping track of the names and places is a bit tough. But that can't be helped. It's the stories within stories that will fascinate you. Of betrayal, spies stories which will connect you to the thought process of that period. The fights between the followers of Shiva and the Vishnu bhakts bring out many of the philosophies followed during those times.

 The conspiracy against the heir to the throne and above all the power plays makes this an interesting read. In all these stories the character of Vandiya Devan is the one experiencing all the tales.

This book is the first in the series and we will have 4 more volumes coming up (I think) I will be eager to see if Sumeetha Manikandan has been able to do justice to all the volumes.



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