Monday, March 4, 2013

Book review

I had signed up for this write-a-review-and-get-a-book-free thing. Needless to say, I was selected and the book arrived in a few days. I was to write a five hundred plus word review for the book within the next seven days on my blog. Here it is.

Let me begin by giving an update about the author herself, which I gathered from the book – she has an interesting mystery thriller series under her belt called the Muzzafar Jang series. It is about a Mughal detective in seventeenth century Delhi. Her penchant for dishing out mystery thrillers is evident in the short stories in the collection “My Lawfully Wedded Husband and Other Stories”, which I am slated to review. She also has a knack for the filmy, which can be seen in her writing.

As I progressed through the book, my initial observation of the language being the new corporate style (that has become the ‘in thing’ among the recent crop of young popular and new writers), stripped off the usual drama that accompanies a serious literary text, is actually hidden under the trick of finding the capacity to ‘see’ the events in the narrative as if they are playing out in front of us on a screen. This is because I noticed after reading a few stories that the author sees most of her stories being played out a series of events – just like in a film. Her blog shows her interest in that field and her writing seems nothing but a projection of it. So for a mind that is used to reading a literary text as conjunction of a series of developments within the narrative, finds this form all too simple and almost commits the mistake of passing it off as light reading. Once if you can get out of that a sensitive reader will be able to find the connection and the kind of appeal that the stories hold.

Thus in the first story, as a reader I first observed that there is a certain kind of calmness and matter of factness with which her protagonists commit the murder, only to later look back and realize that I was not looking at it enough. If one is to talk about the language of the author, it is like one can almost hear the author speak through her writing. Needless to say, she will find ready takers in script-writers. But there are loose ends that will catch the eye of the keen reader. One does not get away by serially killing two people – both of whom die after drinking coffee offered by the same person. Maybe a visual medium might provide a higher satisfaction that the stories deserve. However, at the same time, the ending is one of the best in the entire collection.  Nothing can be more fascinating in a murder plot if you can add a slight touch of mental psychosis. In this collection she deals with issues relating to adultery, to homicide, child abuse, corruption, the good winning over the bad to sexual harassment at workplace. There is a certain amount of detail that Liddle indulges in but which suddenly meet an untimely end. It would almost seem like the author had thought in great detail about certain portions of the story while seemingly in a hurry to end when it reaches the climax. However, her settings are interesting and she shows a certain degree of familiarity with them.

This author seems to be like a bundle of surprises. In each of her stories she seemed to assume a different avatar of an author. But my favourite so far has been the children stories avatar. She successfully evokes the affect of how a child now grown up would have recreated her childhood memories. Till the ending (and this is where I now find some similarity in all her stories, and which seemed like a trademark that kept the conviction of the reader intact that they were reading the work of the same author and not an anthology of short stories) it seemed that this was a young girl telling her story – in a much Ruskin Bond-like fashion. There was the sing-song-ness and the pace just perfect of a child.

Thus, Madhulika Liddle has all the qualities of a good story-teller, albeit in a different medium. There is the O’ Henry-esque sudden twist in the end that one is bound to be left surprised with. The title of the collection is catchy indeed I feel there were plenty of other stories that deserved the book title.

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