Book Review: Tell a Thousand Lies, by Rasana Atreya

Every writer makes a mark on the reader through their work. Some are so weak that we think twice before taking up another book that they write. Some are so powerful that we remember the words long after the book has been read. When it is the latter scenario, the mark that has been made also brings with a certain expectation and anything too far away from that expectation feels like an anomaly, feels unacceptable. This book, in the end, belonged to this category.

Tell a Thousand Lies brings an old-school type storyline. It brings the story of three sisters – Malli, Pullamma and Lata, but focused mainly on the story of the middle child and narrated from her perspective. It talks of discrimination, where the girl and the girl’s marriage prospects are judged by the color of her skin or her physical appearance. It talks of a time where education beyond a certain grade was considered unnecessary and unacceptable for the girl, or even the boy. If the boy had a decent job, it was enough. If the girl was well versed in cooking, pickle making and other household activities in that vein, it was enough. Pullamma is one such girl. However, the color of her skin and that she’s tall looks like it’ll affect her marriage prospects. But she still hopes, as she helps out in Malli’s bride viewing. Lata, youngest of the three, wants to study medicine, but she’s not allowed to. So a rebellion is on, in that respect. It talks of politics, of the lengths some politicians like Kondal can go to to win. It talks of a time where beliefs were blindly followed, where a girl can go from being a normal child one moment to being considered a goddess in the next. It also brings some good characters, like the Headmaster who wants to see the girls educated, but is opposed in his desires by characters like the girls’ grandmother.

Having read the short book ‘The Temple is not my Father’ by the same author, I felt like the scenario from the blurb was right up her wheelhouse and that this book will be almost or just as good, if not better. It had the potential to wow the reader, and to be honest, it starts off on an excellent note. It focuses on the protagonist’s insecurities or worries about not being able to find a groom because of her skin color, height, dowry etc. and also because of her own comparisons with her sisters. But, the focus wavers after that with the twists and turns that come in. The first one felt believable. I’ve heard of those times when people would resort to such madness and blind beliefs. But to explain how that twist happened, the author adds another twist – the lying, scheming politician. To escape this twist, there’s the next one – the grandson who wants to make things right. So one twist on top of another keeps adding to the drama and makes it melodramatic while also adding to the sheer length of the book as well. And to add to this, even a twist becomes clichéd and very expected.

Lata’s story, which I felt interested in – after all, a girl who wants to study but doesn’t get the chance to, that’s so in step with culture in some parts of the country that it appeals to a reader – did not get any big attention. In the end, Lata’s life story ends up sad but the life she wanted, in some way, ends up with Pullamma. (if this confuses you, the story would too). Even when life throws opportunities her way, Pullamma just seems to want her husband back. It was nice that she didn’t want to give up on a marriage, but after a while, the repetitive attitude just felt unreal, like she was brainwashed to such an extent, even education didn’t help to change that. The storyline weaves in and out from Pullamma’s point of view, so what is seen is what she wants us to see. She has her happy ending, no doubt, but to reach that, maybe a thousand lies had been told. It certainly felt that long to me.

Maybe if one goes into reading this novel without any expectations, it’ll feel acceptable, maybe even interesting. I liked that the plot was believable at the start, that it showed the discrimination which we know happens, and that there are people who look to support what is actually a good chance. But I wouldn’t read this book again. It felt like a saga of a thousand episodes, with an unbelievable twist at points to keep the reader interested at the end of each episode. After all was said and read, it felt like the two novels were from two different authors and I knew which one I liked more. No. Not for me, this book.


A score of 5 out of 10
A score of 5 out of 10
Book Details
Title: Tell a Thousand Lies
Author(s): Rasana Atreya Genre: Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: B007IX6W8Q Publisher: Self-published Amazon

I owned a copy of this book. No payment was taken for this review. The views expressed here are mine, and they remain uninfluenced and unbiased.


(© 20th March 2016)

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