Around a month back, I received a mail from a company named ‘Keemiya Creatives’, asking me to review this book. I read the blurb, which seemed intriguing, and I accepted their offer.
I am constantly on the lookout for good literary fiction coming out from India, as I have discovered a few literary gems that sadly couldn’t achieve the level of popularity they deserved, unlike the cheesy commercial fiction books ruling the market. I had hoped that this particular book would fulfill that criterion, but sadly, it failed to do so.
From the first couple of chapters itself, I was left confused. Many things were happening, and I couldn’t decode them. It was all going over my head. However, once the story moved to the past that was set in Pakistan, things settled a bit, and I could make sense of what was happening. I think the part set in Pakistan is the strongest part of the story. It is well-written, and the characters are given a decent introduction. However, once the protagonist moves to Singapore, things start worsening due to the inexplicable and annoying actions of the characters.
A big problem with this book is the excessive description. I should be the last person to complain, though, due to two solid reasons. Firstly, two of my favorite authors, Renita D’Silva and Chitra Divakaruni, both are descriptive authors. I like to get a sense of the surroundings, the smell, the taste of the food, the complete package, which both authors are exceptional at doing without making them feel needless. Secondly, as mentioned by most of the reviewers of my book ‘The Fragile Thread of Hope’, I am guilty of deviating towards excessive descriptions myself sometimes. Yet, the descriptions in this book were overdone, even for me. It actually distracted me almost throughout the book, making me feel less for the characters. Also, the author tries to include history in almost every description, even giving her understanding of why, how, and when the structure/place was built. That is totally unnecessary and it marred what could have been a very good book.
Also, the characters are very vague and irritating. Most of their actions don’t make sense, and the results are quite jarring and unsatisfying. And I didn’t like how the author describes them. There are virtually no scenes in which the characters actually reflect on their actions, making us feel their point of view. They are just thrust into scenes, where the author crushes them under verbose description and sudden revelations and meetings with characters and the artificial, forcibly philosophical dialogues. I mean, people don’t speak like that in reality. The author needs to observe people speaking or just use her common sense for once. People normally talk in casual language and don’t use literary language (using nouns and verbs, which is good for writing prose and should be avoided from dialogue as much as possible). The worst part is that history even seeps into the dialogues, characters talking about Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan, the history of Singapore, etc. in detail, totally turning the reader off. I’m sorry for being so blunt, but this is just my honest opinion.
The story was actually quite good—a woman bound by a suffocating marriage—but the lack of emotions and the other factors mentioned above spoiled it. Also, there was no use of the mirror in the book, which is supposed to be a major part of the book, particularly since it is used in the cover. There are attempts at comedy, but I didn’t find them funny at all.
But if we ignore the excessive descriptions, the language is good overall. I liked the use of metaphors and the use of nouns and verbs instead of adverbs and adjectives (which is a good practice). I couldn’t find any grammatical mistakes, and the punctuation was also proper throughout. This grammatical correctness is also important for me in a book, apart from the story of course.
The author comes across to be quite talented and her command over the language is good. If she just learns how to lessen the descriptions, flesh out the characters a bit more, and simplify her dialogues, I’m sure she can write a wonderful novel next time. Sadly, I didn’t quite like this book, so I cannot give more than 2.75 stars.