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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

She Will Build Him A City by Raj Kamal Jha: Review


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One of the most recent books I read by Bloomsbury is She Will Build Him A City by Raj Kamal Jha. I have not read anything by this author prior to this, nor had I heard of him or his book. So it was quite a surprise when I received the book in my mailbox – thanks again to the wonderful team at Bloomsbury for introducing me to new authors and styles and also for giving me authors that I already love – this cheers goes out to you haan!

Coming back to the book, before I tell you what it is about, here’s a quick look at the blurb:

As night falls in Delhi, a mother spins tales from her past for her sleeping daughter. Now grown up, her child is a puzzle with a million pieces, whom she hopes, through her words and her love, to somehow make whole again.
Meanwhile, a young man rides the last train from Rajiv Chowk Station and dreams of murder.

In another corner of the city, a newborn wrapped in a blood-red towel lies on the steps of an orphanage as his mother walks away.

There are twenty million bodies in this city, but the stories of this woman, man, and child--of a secret love that blossoms in the shadows of grief, of a corrosive guilt that taints the soul, and of a boy who maps his own destiny--weave in and out of the lives of those around them to form a dazzling kaleidoscope of a novel.


Beautiful, beguiling, and audacious, this is the story of a city and its people, of love and horror, of belonging and forgiveness: a powerful and unforgettable tale of modern India.


The story is set in Delhi, a city I first opened my eyes in and lived for the most part of my life. It revisits places in the city I am familiar with, and some I might not really know. I read the book with zero expectations and had no clue what to expect. And I was pleasantly surprised.

To some extent, this book is like no other I have read yet, especially because it mixes so many emotions together, some of which I am yet to encounter in books. My reference is more on the violence shared in the book, a fact that I consistently stay away from as much as possible, but because I did not really choose this book and it was sent to me instead, I gave it a shot.

The author brings together a wide shade of characters, from an orphan to a killer to even an animal – they all fit in perfectly like the beautiful disharmony of a patchwork quilt. The story comes alive through two main characters – Orphan, who is an orphan who ends up wandering out of the orphanage and has a dog as his guide, and a woman whose daughter has left her. I did feel that the story is not very ‘there’, with a kind of drifting apart quality that maybe was intentional, I am not too sure.

There is a lot that goes on in the 300+ pages and it is a quick read, though I found it a little loosely woven here and there and lost interest in many parts. One more thing that I did not particularly enjoy was the violence, especially as in some parts it was too descriptive and gory, and I did not like it at all. Maybe it’s because of the fact that I do not like too much of blood and gore and spattering in a book, but if you are alright with some amount of violence, it could be fine for you.

I won’t say this was a favorite read or one that I would re-read, but you can surely give it a try if you may.
 


- Debolina Raja Gupta