Don’t ask me why she titled it so. You would need to read the book for that. Every page. Every word. And if your choice is any bit similar to mine, then you are going to love it. No, more than that. You are going to love to live in it.
Generally we like the stuff we can relate ourselves to. Any one character in a novel that could be like us- having the same fears, dreads in life. Or when we are so different from all the characters then we can sit in the judge’s chair and have a nice time either ways. A friend pointed out (the only other person I could find who enjoyed the book) rightly that the novel is gloomy. It is set in a dark background, a lonely house, a lost home, a dying river, a deadly mystery of the past – all seen from the eyes of siblings who had lost their childhood. It is not possible to relate to any character as such. And the book is no where like the classic Dickens, Bronte. In which there are evil people who deliberately take away the childhood of miserable orphans. Not that I dont appreciate classics. Before TGST, I was reading Jane Eyre and it was a nice change after Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. The story was simple, with a heroine as protagonist, with short and miserable childhood and how she copes up with everything and develops a strong and appealing character. Obviously, Jane Eyre is a femenist book, and very relevant when you consider the fact that the book had to be published using a different pen name, as nobody would have read it had Charlotte used her own name and hence claimed that a female was smart enough to pull off a book like that. Those were such days. Same is not true any longer. A female can be smart enough to be an Indian and yet pull off a Booker now. Hence, I better like her half drawn character sketches now. Let your imagination grow with the book. Complete the image yourself. Let the guildlines for right/wrong be established after the book’s over.
So whats great about the book? There is nothing new or unexpected about the story. There is melodrama, there is heroine, hero, violence, tears, sex, love, hate. And yet it is not like a Hindi movie. It is very much life like. Again It is not informative or depective as Rohinton Mistry’s A Fince Balance or Family Matters. Yet like any other Indian writer (barring Chetan Bhagat – I prefer calling him what he likes to be called – a youth writer!) Roy weaves a simple sad story on the political, cultural, religious background in the changing times in a small village. But more than the story and the way she tells it, I marvelled at her style of writing. I was in a awed state for some days, still am. She is like this radical writer who doesnt believe in effusive writing. who doesnt believe in completeing her sentences. Who had challenged the traditional style of writing and come out outstanding, successful. When there is terror, she succeeds in spreading it over the heart of the reader. When there is joy, the reader smiles unconsciously like a child, a full beam smile. You would be a part of the book without having to relate to the character, without being able to judge any of them. She set new trends in the style of writing. Only JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye impressed me this much before. Salinger’s story is narrated by a teen-adult, the rebellious cynical teen skeptic of the adult world. Roy’s book also hints on the same style, with the child-who-are-adults-now looking at the old and the new world.
Let me end this blog with a particularly interesting paragraph from the book:
“…They were not friends, Comrade Pillai and Inspector Thomas Mathew, and they didn’t trust each other. But they understood each other perfectly. They were both men whom childhood had abandoned without a trace. Men without curiosity. Without doubt. Both in their own way truly, terrifyingly adult. They looked out at the world and never wondered how it worked, because they knew. They worked it. They were the mechanics who served different parts of the same machine.”
Do read the book if you get time, chance and the book!