Book Review – Letters from an Indian Summer by Siddharth Dasgupta

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I had heard about this book long ago as I tend to follow books by Fingerprint Publishing. Not one of their three books (Losing my Religion by Vishwas Mudagal, Manhattan Mango by Madhuri Iyer, and this one) have disappointed me till now. Editing is brilliant, language exudes class, and the storytelling is good. It is my dream to be published by them.

Coming back to the book, I picked it up in a bookstore in Kolkata during a vacation. Madhuri Iyer, whose language is also excellent, had penned an appreciation for it on the back page, so I couldn’t help myself from grabbing a copy. After I read the first few pages I immediately realized that I had made a great decision by opting for this book. Frankly speaking, I am not qualified to comment on the language of this book. I’ve read Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Prajwal Parajuly, and am currently reading Haruki Murakami and Khaled Hosseini, but Siddharth Dasgupta beats them hands down. The manner in which he constructs sentences is ethereal. I would die to write like that, but I simply can’t. Very few writers are blessed with such ability. To believe my words you have to experience the exceedingly literary prose for yourself. This is how, ideally, Indian authors should write rather than following the easy option of emulating the ordinary writing of some top selling Indian authors whose literary skills can’t be even compared with Siddharth’s. I was re-reading and savoring the unparalleled beauty of each and every sentence as I navigated the novel. The only minor suggestion from me to Siddharth is, if you’re so comfortable playing with nouns and verbs and weaving such poetic sentences, you could lessen the usage of adverbs.

Descriptions of cities is flawless, although sometimes a bit too detailed. It really makes you visit them then and there. Descriptions of food, music, and pictures are also marvelous throughout.

The characterization, too, is great. Despite both the lead characters being likable they have flaws. The balance is maintained with delicate precision. Their traits, their thought processes, and their mental battles are described well. The secrets which they harbor are also revealed at appropriate times and they were unexpected, at least for me.

The only, inconsequential and totally forgivable flaws I did notice were:

1. The ending is a bit predictable.
2. The language in a few dialogues and letters is too poetic to be true. It lacks a bit of realness and simplicity which generally accompany normal conversations.
3. Although parts of the story had sprinklings of emotion, especially the Maya episode, yet overall I think the story couldn’t move me to tears or made me feel any other strong emotion. A few love stories by bestselling authors have, despite the ordinary language, managed to make me emotional.

Nevertheless, a majestic piece of fiction by a supremely talented author, one to watch out for. I would request all Indian readers to read this book and make it a bestseller. With so many below average books achieving the bestseller status, it is sheer injustice that this masterpiece has failed to hit the bestseller shelf. Wake up, India, read proper fiction like this. 4.5 glorious stars to ‘Letters from an Indian Summer’.

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