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.