Never judge a book by it’s cover and I will add up something to it that never even judge it by it’s title either :). As this was an Author sent and as usual I was always as happy to oblige but this time looks like I am going to get some firing :). Going by the title “The Soul” I was excited that it would be a good fiction with some philosophical touch, unfortunately the only thing that’s missing in the entire story is a “Soul” but if this is the Author’s philosophy what he wrote then it isn’t something I identify with. Another reason why I was super excited about this one is that the entire story takes place in a city called “Indore” which I have frequented during my school and college days and it still is a second home to me. Unfortunately, barring a few mention of “Holkars” there isn’t one thing that he has covered in the entire book, no history, no background, nothing at all, it was a super turn off for me. Author happens to be a big fan (I am guessing) of Dickens as so much usage of terms like “Presently”, “Countenance”, “Discourse” and so many others did put a smile on my face but were a little over used, I mean imagine, almost every alternate page had someone’s Countenance moving from here to there. Also, the way he has used the super solid tough words almost making me think so much of much loved Mr. Shashi Tharoor for a good measure during the course of the novel. Guess he wrote down like a 1000 words in advance and took a vow of using them all, one word per para :).
Original story is set in the early 90’s and covers the four important years of four engineering students completing their degree from the city of Indore. Of-course two boys and two girls, plus a couple of very important characters criss-crossing their stories. Unfortunately after a very good start, the story takes a nose dive and never picks up. The character which appealed most to me was a Carriage (Horse Cart) driver, whose only source of income goes in jeopardy as then Government bans the usage of carriages in the city and he is left with no source of income, his struggle and pain was something which touched my heart but the solution that Mr. Author had, shocked me to the core. His friend(s) another poor couple who die in a road accident leave behind their two kids to his care, one of them is a beautiful but mute and mentally retarded girl, you can imagine her fate even then, what all she goes through, the daily struggle, survival with no-one to look after was heartening but again the ending left me shaking my head. Even the college students, I thought will give me some interesting memories or respite but that wasn’t to be, some of them are so orthodox and some are totally 21st century but taking weird turns. The most unfortunate thing about the whole story is that it was half cooked, he didn’t let any character develop at all. Imagine, there is no mention of any family for the leading three characters at all, no idea what background they come from and why they all come to Indore to study.
As I said, that the “Soul” was totally missing from the book or I will say that the story didn’t have a heart in it. In a book of 200 pages, the first 130 pages have no mention of the word “Soul” but suddenly after 130 pages, the word “Soul” makes an entry and then every para had it but by that time it had already lost its meaning and never picks up. I am shocked by the handling too that (Not a spoiler), he actually ended killing characters left, right and center to his own whims and fancies (of-course it is his book and story) but I seriously want to ask the Author “Did you read the whole book yourself after you finished it?”. I felt cheated by the way he actually killed the protagonist and let some characters disappear just like that with no explanations. But anyways, to each of his own, but a book like this breaks my heart thinking that it was such a good opportunity royally wasted. Hope he comes out with a better book in future but this was a complete disaster.
I am not going to ask if you have read it, but if you actually have, tell me who was “Afia”, Where did “Rhea” disappear? and what happened to “Rajiv Mehta?” how can his character be ended simply in one para in italics. And if you haven’t read it, trust me, its not worth it. Give it a miss.