335 pages and over three weeks is quite uncharacteristic of me. It means the book didn’t appeal to me. Yet it’s a good novel, my heart tells me again and again. So I picked it up once more for a second reading before writing this post which is not really a review. How can you review a book unless it made you feel something in your heart?
My attempt to give it a second reading floundered to a rather abrupt end when the book made me feel sleepy every time I picked it up. Yet I can guarantee that the book is good. A sexagenarian looks back at his life with much wistfulness and resignation. The loss of his mother when he was only nine years old redefined his life altogether. Later the father too abandoned him for a while.
The mother ran away with a German when she realised that there was little in common between her and her husband. There was no connection between the mother and the son except some letters she wrote him initially. The mother vanishes from the boy’s consciousness eventually but not from his subconscious mind.
Anuradha Roy narrates the story well in an aesthetically subdued manner. The narrative moves on like a gentle river meandering along its convoluted course. The characters are complex enough to sustain our interest. There is a young wife who abandons her family in order to discover her freedom. There is her son who grows up to wonder why his mother abandoned him. The narrator’s father and grandfather are fascinating characters too.
The narrative style is superb too. There is elegance, there is subtlety, there is a fairly interesting blend of history and fiction.
Yet why didn’t I enjoy reading it? I don’t know. Maybe, the narrative is a little too clever for me. A plot that is contrived to capture the reader’s attention? Maybe, I can’t say. One question that left me baffled is why a real person from history, Walter Spies, was used as a main character, the one with whom a purely fictitious character, the narrator’s mother, elopes.
Well, maybe, someday I’ll return to this novel yet again and try to rediscover its critically acclaimed beauty.