Book Review – The Spectacular Miss by Sonia Bahl

thespectacularmisscover

I always follow Fingerprint Publishers—one of my favorite publishers—to discover new reads. And a few months back, I came to know about this book. The reviews were enticing, so I gave it a shot. Meanwhile, I even met the author on Twitter. She was polite and down to earth, which I liked.

Two pages into the book and I knew that it was going to be a good read. The language was stylish and a class apart from a normal bestseller commercial Indian fiction and the unique story caught me in a web of intrigue. But as I progressed, I began noticing certain flaws too. For example, most of the similes and metaphors were referencing 70’s actors and actresses, which were probably from Hollywood. Along with that, the protagonist being a mere nine-year-old kid, I found it difficult to believe that certain metaphors and similes could be imagined at such a young age. Nevertheless, the story was engaging and it pulled me along. The characterization of the protagonist, Nira, is brilliantly done. All her flaws, idiosyncrasies, and uncertainties are described with clinical precision. Even the other characters—Bir, her family, Lucy, and the gay (forgot his name)—are sketched well.

But I have a minor complaint in terms of the language. The author has peppered the narrative with too many big words, which would be difficult to understand even for seasoned readers. She could have conveyed the same emotions using simpler words. But if you ignore this negligible defect, the talent of the author does shine throughout the book. The editing is top class; it was almost impossible to find even a single grammatical or punctuation error. The language is interspersed with brilliant poetic lines and beautiful, original metaphors, which makes it a treat for avid readers.

Another problem that I found in the narrative was the overuse of telling rather than showing. I would have appreciated if the author had rather showed some events happening (e.g. the chapter in which the layout of their flat in the UK is described. Instead of plainly describing it, she could have shown Nira walking around the place and showing each thing via her eyes instead). However, I still appreciate this kind of writing style—one in which the author mixes a scene in between the telling—as it requires skill to do so, rather than the simpler option of going scene by scene (but the one which I prefer as it gives the author a chance to show more).

Despite never feeling too emotional anywhere, I could feel for the protagonist throughout. Although I never laughed out loud, some witty lines did bring a smile to my face. Descriptions—the parts which I love in books—have been generally avoided, but maybe it was intentional to reduce the length of the book. The ending was a bit abrupt but it was satisfying nevertheless.

Overall, I must say that I enjoyed the book. Books like these with a new style, a unique story, and a fresh writing style should become more popular in India than the average mass market books hitting the bestseller charts. But of course, a relentless Facebook marketing strategy is, unfortunately, necessary for it nowadays, and not every author has the time, money, and patience to do that. A nice, sweet book with brilliant language but with the minor, easily forgivable flaws as I have mentioned above.

3.75 stars from my side.

 

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