The value of simplicity seems to be going down these days, at least when it comes to books. There is preference to deep set plots, depth in characters (to an extent that they seem out of this world), and a high level of English that makes it necessary to have a thesaurus nearby while reading. I do not mean to say every book needs to be run-of-the-mill stuff, but just that simple ones are rare.
For that reason, this book, Fire Under Ash stands out because the book is, mostly, simple. It has a love triangle in a college, and a couple of other characters whose lives and decisions make the storyline. Ashwin, set for higher education abroad, decides on a whim, a fancy, an infatuation if you would, to cancel those plans and study at the college where Mallika, the object of the infatuation, studies. The move doesn’t sit well with the family or friends, obviously. Mallika is pretty; the lead singer of a band that played at Ashwin’s farewell, also soon becomes the object of another guy’s infatuation. Lallan also arrives at Azad College to complete his MA degree, but falls in love with Mallika even though he’s engaged to another girl. But can Ashwin and Mallika find their way with Lallan tagging along? On another angle, we see Ashwin’s sister Meera’s story playing out in New York, with a work vs love theme there.
The title and cover are what catch your eye immediately. Both are well thought of. The characters seem believable and not too fictional or out of the world. Though the idea is not new, the author manages to polish it well and keep the reader interested. It takes some time for the interest in the story to develop, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was boring. Good language and good detailing goes hand in hand here, but there are some details that feel amiss. It’s easy to imagine the scenes in mind.
A good debut work that manages to entertain for sure… but it’s a one-time read for me.
Title: Fire Under Ash
Author: Saskya Jain
Publisher: Vintage/ RHI
Price: Rs. 499
(14th November 2014)