Publisher: Bloomsbury
Language: English
ISBN: 9789384052416
Price: INR 499
Pages: 244

No, not ‘Ray’ – if you are Bengali enough to be inquisitive and have visited the link to this review just because of the surname, let me give you a gentle reminder – as you should not judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t decide to read or not read a book by its author.

“The text of this book is set in Berlin roman, a modern face designed by K. E. Forsberg between 1951 and 1958. In spite of its youth it does carry the characteristics of an old face. The serifs are inclined, and the g has a straight ear.”

When the penultimate page of a book contains this text, you know the book is special. Only this is when you are allowed to silently judge a book by its cover – mind you, silently. If you have the bad habit to read through the top and back covers when you get to put your hands on a book, you can connect to this feeling – rather the excitement.

Don’t Let Him Know‘ by Sandip Roy is a unique piece of work – apparently, every chapter is a short story in itself. Every chapter, each minuscule cellular structure, has a life of its own, has an existence of its own. Yet the author manages to bind them all together seamlessly and form the entirety of the being that ‘Don’t let him know’ is. That this is a début novel deserves appreciation in itself.

“Turmeric, coriander, methi.
Here mother in the kitchen…
Here father reading the newspaper…
Old Sushila chopping the fish…
Turmeric, dhoney, methi…
Holud, dhoney, methi…”

Roy’s characterisation of Amit, Romola and Avinash are well thought out and brings out the instinctive characteristics of a Bengali household – both in the country and outside it. The chapters tell stories of the past and the present – effortlessly – of love, ambition, faithfulness, sexuality, little and big secrets. The characters stand out from the narrative in a picturesque canvas where you can visualise them.

DontLetHimKnowEvery single person has secrets of his own – few are so deeply rooted that he fears to let them out – even to his dearest. Seldom one knows that there might come a day when that very little secret will uproot itself and storm out to destroy everything around it. Avinash, Romola, Amit – each of them had similar secrets.

With all the secrecy around it and also the naming in ‘Don’t Let Him Know‘, the novel ends up feeling more of an afterthought of the characters, well woven with all the stories of their lives. The entirety of the book carries with it a deep sense of nostalgia and a dominant urge to keep the past afloat. That way the characters of the novel repeatedly fail to stay connected with the present, and thus, attracting unforeseen turbulences.

“I need personal space. Oh my God, listen to me. Personal space and Diet Coke. How much more American can I get?”

The narrative is strong, and the reader thoroughly enjoys the ups and downs, the emotional upheavals throughout the story. Although it starts with a dull thump to the readers’ mind, the gradual momentum does not let down the reader at the end of it all.

A recommended read, certainly.

Rating: 7.5/10

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