She’s A Jolly Good Fellow, Sajita Nair’s first novel, is the story of two women officers in the Indian army. The book follows their capers, their friendship and other relationships and survival in a man’s world.
Second Lieutenants Deepa Shankar and Anjali Sharma, who were buddies at the Officer’s Training Academy, are posted to the remote village of Bengdubi where they are the first and only women officers there. As they strive to live in an all man’s world where they have to prove themselves at every step, Anjali becomes more ladylike than ever while Deepa (whose hair is chopped short) insists on being called “Sahab”. As Anjali falls in love, their relationship begins to sour as Deepa cares about her job and to prove that a woman could wear the pants at work. The book, which sees the issues more from Deepa’s angle than anyone else’s, captures the lighter side of the army life and the small things that everyone seems to forget.
The book, written in a very fluid manner resembles the style of a typical “chick lit” book. Most of the writing maintains a breezy, light hearted tone though the drama does unfold well. While it provides a few chuckles here and there and keeps a smile on your face, there are no instances when one reels over in laughter. It shows us how Deepa matures into an officer from the hot headed, ideological girl at the beginning without compromising any of her values. The book also reflects the loneliness of an army officer and the tough life that they lead; it being much harder for women, of course. While the romantic storyline was done well, the writing seemed a little mechanical in those parts of the story.
Overall, the story is well executed, a little film-like but simple and happy. It provides us with a little insight on the life of the army person. She’s A Jolly Good Fellow is not exceptional in a way but it does provide a refreshing (and much needed!) change to the Indian youth literature of today.
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