Review: Perfect | Imperfect

Book: Perfect | Imperfect Author: Ravi Bedi Publishers: Author’s Ink Publications Rate: 4.5stars Title Perfect | Imperfect ,a very apt title for a novel, where a perfect plan is laid out for …

Source: Review: Perfect | Imperfect

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Review of “Lover’s Rock” By Percy Wadiwala

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Book Review: Lovers’ Rock, by Ravi Bedi

Book Review: Lover’s Rock, by Ravi Bedi

Publisher: Rupa

Pages: 353

Buying Link: Amazon

The Indian literary scene has gone through several changes, from being virtually non-existent to high international visibility to what is threatening to become a deluge of surprisingly-similar books focussed around romance and historical re-tellings.

It is easy for a book to get lost in this deluge, and that is precisely what I hope Lovers’ Rock by Ravi Bedi does not become, for it is definitely different from its peers, not just in plotting but also in functioning in a genre that is not easy to slot.

Plot

Lovers’ Rock is the story of Mani Shankar Varadharajan, a Flight Lieutenant with the Indian Air Force, and his wife, Grace Wilson, Anglo-Indian daughter of a Railway signalman. When the modest Mani marries the flamboyant Grace, it sets into motion a series of events that takes the reader on a journey from the Air Force base in Kalaikunda to the virgin beaches of Digha, to Mumbai and Goa. But it also takes us on a journey into the minds of the two protagonists, one a fundamentally good person drawn into evil, and the other a reckless, petty one who suffers its consequences.

From the society of the Air Force Base to the seedy hotels of Kolkata, from the high-octane party scene in Goa to Mumbai’s art scene, Mr. Bedi depicts the vicissitudes in the lives of both his characters quite well. [Spoiler Alert] Both are flawed people, but perhaps what makes the difference in their lives is that while Mani finds good people to stand by him at his lowest point in the kindly Aunt Jane, her sweet-tempered daughter Tanya and the canny art promoter Pestonjee, Grace pushes aside the helping hand offered by the Gomez family and hitches her wagon to the rascally Mark Braganza.

Characters

I spoke earlier about Lovers’ Rock being difficult to easily classify into genre. If I had to, I would say it is a form of revenge fiction in the mould of the better genre fic writers of the last century. This does mean that the characters in the story are driven by the plot, rather than the other way around.

Mani and Grace are undoubtedly complex and realistic characters, both flawed in their own ways. By refraining from white-washing Mani and giving even Grace a moment or two of good sense, Mr. Bedi does make them believable. Yet, as a reader I felt their internal struggles and dilemmas could have been brought out more strongly and would have given the story a layer of depth.

As it stands, Grace in particular, felt a little too predictable in her ways, though I wonder if this is a fair criticism, after all real people often have fewer dimensions to their character than what we expect from those in fiction.

The other characters in the story like Mark, Pestonjee, Aunt Jane and Tanya, as well as minor characters like Fernandez the moneylender and Patel the real estate broker are definitely plot driven and adequate to their function within the story without coming across as being well-fleshed-out.

The other things

Of books I have had the opportunity to review lately, the cover of Lovers’ Rock stands out, bringing out just the right poignancy that the story deserves. The editing is good as well, and Mr. Bedi’s writing is smooth and after a slow start, the story picks up pace very well.

Fairly fast-paced once it gets past the major plot point, Lovers’ Rock was an easy read, the language good without being obscure and simple without pandering. In some places there was ‘tell’ which was perhaps not necessary, and as I’ve said before, certain aspects like Grace’s motivations at various stages could have made for a more emotionally-layered story. Also, in some places the dialogue can be somewhat more formal than you would expect, which comes across as not quite natural.

Yet, this is not a simple narrative, and by the ending it is apparent that this is not a mere revenge fantasy or faux-literary posturing, but a fully-realised plot written with an excellent understanding of its settings and subject.

Conclusion

Lovers’ Rock takes the readers on a journey through the art scene of Mumbai, military society and Goa’s high-flying party scene, all the while painting an interesting story of passion and revenge. Though there is room to be even better, the book remains a definite page-turner, and the ending serves a form of poetic injustice that brings in just the right tinge of realism.

Note

This will be among my last Book Reviews. I have felt for a while that I need to take a break from it, and am inclined to make it a long one. There should be two more before that happens, though.

It’s been fun.

My review of “In The Light Of Darkness” – By Radhika Maira Tabrez

A sparkling light in the darkness…

It is rare to come across a book, written so well, in a language that many of us writers have chosen to ‘Indianise’ with impunity. Radhika Maira Tabrez’s rich diction, and her choice of words not normally seen in Indian writings, is indeed laudable. Her descriptions are so rich that you feel as if you’re a part of the setting.

The author’s in-depth portrayal of internal conflicts and emotions is exemplary, even though stretched out a bit too far at places.  Certain things ought to have been left to a reader’s imagination to hasten the flow of the story. To a certain extent, therefore, the economy seems to have been compromised in my humble opinion. As a result, the pace of the story is affected.

It is a lot safer to applaud the work of an accomplished author that Radhika Tabrez is, but I’m a habitual offender of the common practice.  We writers, in general, get passionately attached to our works, and are not so receptive to conflicting views. An honest opinion, no matter how relevant, is not so easy to appreciate. I would, therefore, try not to be insensitive to cause any unsolicited hurt, but offer my penny bit with a certain degree of honesty not normally seen in the published reviews.

The plot, I’m afraid, has its own share of grey areas. To me the strength of a plot, and its inevitability, is more important than anything else in a work of fiction. The first question that bothers me here is why a loving mother has waited so long and not written that letter to her only son, Matthew, a lot earlier to clear the air? In spite of her reservations, there was no serious attempt whatsoever on her part to resolve the issues well in time. I don’t see any perceptible reason for not having done so for as long as three decades!

It is difficult to believe that this boy didn’t have any idea of what was going on at home? Even four-year-olds are known to retain some memories of domestic abuse in their minds for as long as they live.

Secondly, where did Matthew spend his vacations all these years, if not at home? Also, with their phone calls restricted to once-in-a-blue-moon kind of situation, ‘sweethearts’ and ‘darlings’ didn’t quite fit under the given circumstances.

The dramatic change that the mile-long letter (smaller one would’ve worked better in my opinion) brought in this boy’s thinking, especially when he had been harboring so much abhorrence for his mother, is also not so convincing. There are ample shades of compassion in Matthew, which remained unexplored for most part of his young life. I find it difficult to believe that Susan couldn’t resolve the nagging issues before they were routed deep in the young boy’s mind.

The episode concerning the children home—a clear diversion from the main course—has received more than its legitimate share of space in the narrative even if it has a purpose towards the end. Halfway through those pages, I knew where the story was going.

All the lead characters, presented skilfully, tend to exhibit identical traits of being good Samaritans, ready to solve nagging issues collectively, with the sole exception of Matthew, who shows lack of maturity in his thoughts and actions…until much later.

I would be failing if I do not applaud the way the author has handled the most sensitive part of the story towards the end, bringing this emotionally-charged tale to its logical conclusion.

“In The Light of Darkness” should find a place in your book-shelf for the sheer beauty of its prose. I wish the author the very best and look forward to her new offerings.