I am not very fond of travelogues, but some do make for interesting reading. The author of this book, Lalitha Balasubramanian, had written a travelogue that featured some of the temples of Kerala. I liked reading that, and thus decided to pick up this book too, the author’s next offering. I loved the cover art too.
There’s something about a well written short story that charms the reader. Perhaps it is the ability to connect threads in the span of a smaller word limit, or the chance to devour a story quickly. I love reading them, and I love writing them. To connect short stories across a book, and keep the reader guessing what the next story holds, that was an interesting concept. I did not expect to get short stories connected to each other when I took up “Among the Stars” for reading. The beginning of the collection, and the common thread between the stories, made me nostalgic.
Thrillers are wonderful to read because they have this ability to hold you from the first page to last by keeping you on the edge of your seat. Add a genre to this genre, and it sometimes dilutes that effect. Political thrillers add a drama quotient to that thrill, and if written well, bring realism to the story as well. Surpanakha uses a tension between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as its background and weaves a tale that is quite engaging.
They say it takes just one visionary to see a change oriented towards the good and make it happen. If many such visionaries were there, then the country would develop. Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, which I read recently, spoke of many facets of our country that needed fixing. And today, a book that I started reading as a romance fiction actually turned out to be more of a contemplative, detailed look at some more things that need fixing.
Seeking Redemption, the debut offering of Dr. Madhu Vajpayee, brings to us the story of a strong willed girl named Meera. It is her journey, from her convocation day rehearsal to her family and friends, her first love and how that happened, her determination to do some good in the world and ultimately, her decisions on how to move forward in life. Though the blurb indicates it would be a love triangle sort of story, Seeking Redemption mostly hinges around the main protagonist Meera, with the two men Aman and Abhay weaving in and out.
What Madhu does well with this story is to highlight many factors that need change. She brings out facets like reservation. She talks about the more rigid mindset of an Indian family where the son is the apple of the mother’s eyes, and gets her support, and the main priority for the daughter is getting married and settling down in life. I liked Meera’s character… strong willed, generous and honest, and I liked GK Mishra’s character as well, to keep supporting his daughter and believing in her decisions. Overall, I felt there was importance to three characters (Meera, her father and Abhay), and these three characters were sketched well. There are some memorable lines present through the novel too, philosophy that the character believes in, and apt for that situation. The novel is a fast read, and can be finished in a day at most.
I think one aspect I find common with most self-published novels is the lack of editing. In some cases, it can be overlooked because the good points outweigh the bad ones, but to my dismay, this book had too much of editing issues. If Madhu looks at the first page, she may be able to see what I mean. Once Meera has been introduced in the first line, the second one needn’t start “Meera’s father”. Just “her father” would suffice. Similarly, when her mother is introduced, “her mother” is enough. To repeat the name too much in a short space feels very odd while reading. Another place where the editing jumps out is when Ahalya joins the conversation after Meera’s failed attempt at her post graduation exam. The dialogue misses the closing quotes, so it feels like just one continuous line. These are but two of the places in the book which has editing problems. Those aside, I think Madhu has tried to do too much in a short novel. In an attempt to bring out all those facets that need to be looked at seriously, and combine it with Meera’s life (and love life), the story ends up more muddled, and loses the emotion as it progresses. I don’t feel sympathy for Meera when Ahalya doesn’t support her in her time of sadness (though it might go well with her character), and at the last, what happens with her brother, that felt unnecessary (though it showed Meera’s character to stick with the right side). I’d have loved it if there was more of how Aman woos Meera, and how Abhay’s love for Meera develops. Without meeting much, and avoiding him often, Meera’s immediate acceptance of Aman’s proposal felt oddly out of place to me.
The story overall works to a certain extent to show a lot of things, and I feel this was Madhu’s original intent. To combine it with a love story didn’t quite work. It didn’t do justice to the love story, and ended up making the intent confusing perhaps.
IN A GIST:
Positives: Quick read, well sketched main characters, memorable dialogues, highlights important issues.
Negatives: Editing problems aplenty, tries to get a lot of details out and ends up confusing, very less of the love story in the book.
Title: Seeking Redemption
Author: Madhu Vajpayee
Genre: Romance Fiction
Publishers: Notion Press
Price: INR. 225
(26th Nov, 2013)
About the author:
Nineteen year old Mehek Bassi is a Computer Science & Engineering student from Ludhiana. Cut off from possible work-spheres like the kitchen and her father’s office, her creative mind took to novel writing and the result was this book, her debut. She is also an ardent blogger.
Impressions from the cover:
Honestly, I can’t tell what genre it is, or what the story might be about from the cover, which is a simple design. I can tell there might be a death by seeing the title font, like the writing on the wall is from blood dripping down etc.
Expectations from the blurb:
A lot of stories that somehow must come together to blend into one cohesive tale. One is a tale of guilt, another of fame and fortune, and a third of a very long wait. Or maybe it is just one with all three. Just to note, the top of the back blurb, with a chain and dripping blood makes for a better cover than the lady sitting in the chair with a glass of rose colored drink.
So, just to give you a gist of the story, we begin in the year 2015 and are taken to the life of Arjun, someone who is in mourning after the loss of his wife Shiya. We are shown that two years prior to that date, Shiya entered a comatose state, and even with family and friends pressuring him remarry, he’s still devoted to Shiya and is feeling guilty that he got her into that state. I like this starting, as it makes us eager to know what had happened two years prior that he feels guilty about. It basically sets the tone for the plot. From 2015, we travel back in time to 2006, the year when Shiya enters a reputed college to study music. Though she is from a rich family, she wishes to be simple and dresses like that. We see Shiya meet Arjun for the first time, and then fight with him for the first time. A friendship begins to form, and slowly, the friendship turns to love after their first kiss, right after Shiya shoots to college fame after winning a singing contest. We are taken through the journey of their love story, from the details of their first time together to some times of insecurity and jealousy, then a return to understanding each other etc. We are shown Shiya’s rise to stardom, and the dirty side to publicizing, a hunger for money and focus on career as well. The other characters slowly begin to come to life as the story progresses. From a romance story, it becomes a killer thriller of sorts and then a tragedy. I’ll leave the details of why and how out, that you can read the book and find out!
What I like in the book is the plot. There are these different stories that come together to create a thread. The book is not heavy on the mind and it would make a good companion for a long travel… took me about 4 to 5 hours to finish it. That quite shows Mehek’s storytelling is strong enough to hold the reader’s attention. Though the story is essentially a love story, it’s not mushy or sickly sweet in its details. If Mehek’s intent was to show that true love is not bound by time, then she succeeds, because another character realizes his true love after waiting for decades. Though there are quite a few characters, the main character is Shiya and most of the attention to detail has been paid to her character. It was very interesting that Shiya, first an introvert and one desiring a simple life becomes so outgoing and career-focused later on. Very contrasting choice. The language is simple and easily understandable.
Well, what I wished was better is the proofreading. There aren’t many typo errors but I still feel this needed editing. The opening is one very long sentence, whereas it should have been one paragraph with three or four sentences. There are places where the typo makes the sentence seem odd or take on a different meaning. The language is such that you can get what Mehek wants to say, but the sentence is framed in such a way that it means something else. For e.g. from the prologue, where she says the protagonist Arjun takes out a briefcase with photographs and memories of his wife Shiya. However, the way it is expressed makes it oddly sound like his wife is buried in it. There are errors like this I find in a few places. Another thing I’d suggest to Mehek for her future novels is to try to keep the suspense till the end. You’ve X was killed and it’s in the papers. Keep the reader hooked to that mystery, rather than showing Y is the killer in the same chapter itself. Another thing I noticed, and I wonder if it’s because of her age, is that though Shiya’s sexy side after fame is portrayed nicely with the attire choice and seduction of Arjun, there is a lack of detail in the passion that follows. Like Arjun, seeing his sexy wife in all that hotness, is ready to pounce. Then the pounce is missing. I like the ending, it’s unusual, but the epilogue needed better handling. Perhaps if it was done in first person, from Arjun’s point of view, the pathos generated would have been much more effective. Since this effectively was Shiya’s life’s story, from her humble beginnings to her rise to fame and then death, a suggestion I feel Mehek could have done perhaps is a first person take. It might have got a wonderful personal touch if Shiya’s story was said by Shiya herself than a third person narrator. The story has promise, but how it is put across, and how the emotions were handled, is direct in description whereas the genre and the situation might call for a little mood-setting.
To conclude, I’ll first thank Mehek for her generosity in sending me a personally autographed copy. She hoped I’d enjoy reading the book, and I did. It was a good plot and it kept me interested in it. Just judging by plot and narration, I’d rate this book high. However, the lack of editing for me is quite a big setback, as is the predictability in the thrill part put across. For a debut, a nice effort. Honestly, I find her to be a good storyteller, because she commands the attention of a reader with the flow in her novel.
Title: Chained – Can You Escape Fate?
Author: Mehek Bassi
Publishers: Notion Press
Price: INR. 200
(May 24th, 2013)