Publisher: Frog Books
Price: INR 195
Let me start by telling you a story. Picture a village or a really, really small town. The hero arrives from the big, bad city – perhaps to rediscover his roots, or maybe take a break & start over his life with a clean slate. Where there’s a hero, there’s a heroine as well, so we have the hero either falling in love or helping her out of trouble in some way or the other. Then think of the other people in the town/village, the really important & influential ones such as the mayor, the doctor, the priest, the policeman/sheriff – all of them are in on the conspiracy to keep their stranglehold on the minds of the townsfolk. The hero tries to battle all these individuals but is suppressed as an ‘outsider’ & warned not to meddle in their affairs or face consequences. And just when all hope seems lost, the hero (by a miraculous twist of fate) manages to save his girl, the townsfolk & himself as well almost single-handedly & walks off into the sunset.
For those familiar with Bollywood movies, that is pretty much the formulaic plot of most ‘masala’ fare from the 1980s. Now name the town Levion, call our hero Conner White & the heroine Victoria Parks & continue to connect the dots, you can tell it’s pretty much the same story.
Despite all this, I came quite close to giving this 4 stars at one point. Why so, and why I didn’t, here goes my review.
Let me make it clear that the point I was making by pointing out those similarities was no joke. It’s indeed a bitter truth that even to this day, there are indeed many places in my country where one would find instances of regressive thinking, anachronistic social customs, superstition & blind faith. The author does a decent job of depicting the trauma of the female protagonist after an unfortunate incident & the kind of treatment one usually faces at the hands of society.
I’m in two minds about the writing. I wasn’t lying when I said this guy is one of the better ones given the current standards of Indian popular fiction (for those who don’t know, it’s on the horrible side) & I stand by it. But there are a few basic flaws (excessive use of adverbs & adjectives, for one) that need to be ironed out & hopefully that will come with time & maturity. For the author is only 18 years old at the time of writing, so he does have time on his side.
Coming to the plot, I was initially awed that someone as young as the author attempted writing an allegorical novel by creating an alternative world, but then somewhere around the halfway mark, he forgot to continue with that & it’s obvious the book dips in the latter half. The author chooses the easy (and formulaic) way out of what could’ve been so much better had he shown a bit of courage to push through with what he begun. There are too many gaping holes & inconsistencies which almost ruin whatever goodness there was to be savoured.
At the end, I’m slightly disappointed with Gwalani’s effort but I do hope he churns out much better books in the future, for he does have talent. Recommended for readers of Indian popular fiction, who are probably willing to look beyond love stories & mediocre coming-of-age dramas.
Overall Rating: 5.5/10
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