We live in a time where everything is becoming device oriented, social networks are tempting to join and addictive once joined. Even the jokes that are on social networks tend to show that increasing influence of social networks, some going even as far as to tell that the first thing a mother might soon be doing immediately after giving birth is updating her status on social networks. It is a way to share our joy and see it multiply, but it may not be all hunky-dory as people might think. What if you, in a few hours after the first ping on a social network, fall head over heels in love with someone who you have never met before?
The Expressionist, debut novel of Akhila Sudhakar explores such a tale in the modern era. Aashna, the protagonist… educated in a high profile all-girls school where she got her pride, finds it hard to settle elsewhere, has an idea about guys and is very selective in trying to meet new people. Relaxing after cracking a placement at her college, she adds a few guys on Facebook (from her old school’s alumni page), and three of them accepts at once. The third of the trio breaks through her selective filter immediately and thus sets off the novel. The story that follows tells of the evolving relationship between the two; from friends, to possible boyfriend, to boyfriend and finally the “let’s get married soon” phase. But any relationship has its problems and here too one crops up. Do the two find a way past it and a happy ending? You can read and find out.
Love is a genre that does not have a shortage of books. Especially if you look at Indian authors writing in English. Something must stand out in the novel if a book in that genre is to stand out of the crowd. In The Expressionist, that facet is the central character of Aashna Ramanujam who has a mix of qualities to her character. She is proud of her school, she is selective of her friends, sometimes taking time to form a bond with people, and at other times, just a minute. Finding someone who fits into her idea of the perfect guy, she begins to form her world around him. When problems start cropping up, she finds herself breaking too. The change portrayed in her character with the changes happening in the relationship feels very real, very vividly done. The quirky nature of her friends, who stand by her and give her varied advice when needed adds to the story too. The narration is nice. I wouldn’t say it kept me hooked to it from start to finish, but the language kept my interest. Whereas many stories in the love genre have a lot of editing errors, this one felt nice and the direct route taken for things like flirting, asking sexual questions and fantasies etc. felt right. I liked the ending though. The last line definitely is a memorable one. Lastly, the cover design is something that I liked, and feel would be very appealing if a paperback version is in the pipeline.
There are some things that, to me, felt a little unrealistic. Even though the current era is modern, parents and grandparents are mostly traditional. I didn’t feel that a father, who used to get worried for Aashna closing her door for a while, would accept a guy who his daughter hasn’t seen. A grandmother who was willing to talk on her behalf just by seeing the expressions on her face felt nice, but again, I didn’t think a grandparent would agree for the marriage just like that. I would have liked to see something being explored there perhaps. I quite understand the feeling of seeing a person’s face everywhere when in love, or just after breaking up. It showed obsession, and depth to the relationship. But the idea of almost every stranger having the same name felt odd. It was darkly humorous, but odd. Some parts of the book, I skimmed through. And lastly, I did not quite understand the title. Yes, Aashna’s character is very expressive, and the story too, but I didn’t quite understand why the novel is titled so, based on one paragraph at the end.
The novel is a good one. Though there are some things that didn’t quite gel with me, I feel it has story in it to keep the reader engaged, even if not finish it at one go.
Why should you read it?
A different love story, with a nice central character and other characters around her to match. The narration keeps the reader engaged in it and the ending is nice. And a cover that would be very appealing if a paperback version is in the pipeline.
What you may not like…
Some parts of the novel feel a bit unrealistic/odd in my opinion, and I didn’t quite understand the choice of title.
Title: The Expressionist
Author: Akhila Sudhakar
Genre: Romantic Drama, Dark Comedy
Publisher: Kindle Direct/Amazon
Price: INR. 151
(13th June 2014)