WRITING STYLE: 4/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4.5/5
The last few years have seen an increased awareness about English writing in India and the need to honour and celebrate the same.
The JCB prize for Literature is one such attempt to celebrate Indian writing and this year’s shortlist had some interesting titles which grabbed my attention.
Recently, I got the opportunity to read and review a JCB Prize shortlisted book All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy. Read on to know more about my thoughts on the book.
What to expect?
All the Lives We Never Lived is basically a slow period drama. It’s not really based on actual historical events or people but the story loosely explores the events of the 1930s and early 1940s.
It talks of a time when the entire world arena was dominated by the war that was meant as an answer to all wars, but which adversely affected millions in its aftermath.
The book explores themes of childhood trauma, the pain of separation, loneliness and guilt. Expect an intense read; a great literary fiction when you pick this book up.
Let’s talk about the storyline
All the Lives We Never Lived tells us the story of nine-year-old Myshkin Rosario whose mother, Gayatri Sen Rosario leaves behind the comfort and familiarity of a marital home, the innocent love of her only child and an indifferent husband to escape to the Dutch held Bali of the 1930s.
She leaves the known in search of the unknown and poor little Myshkin is now traumatized by the scandal, that has become the latest piece of gossip in the small Himalayan town of Muntazir.
Years later Myshkin decides to let go of the demons that have haunted him for decades and plans on reliving the memories of his mother. In the process, he discovers a side of his mother which he never knew existed.
This is a story of the loveless little boy Myshkin and his impulsive and passionate mother, Gayatri.
Cover, font style and size, and general readability
Gorgeous is the one word that comes to my mind when I look at the hardbound copy of All the Lives We Never Lived. The cover jacket and art are exquisite.
Further, the book has a cover that is meaningful and syncs well with the story. The paper quality is good too and the font style and size make it a comfortable read.
How good are the characters?
There is something about the characters of All The Lives We Never Lived that evoke all kinds of emotions in you.
In the beginning, you might start liking a character and hate the other. But as the story progresses, every character seems rational. In hindsight, all their actions, however selfish, seem reasonable.
It is the beauty of Anuradha Roy’s writing that makes one associate with the characters so easily. The complexity and diversity in every single character one of the best things about this book.
I would also recommend you to check out the author’s note at the end of the book to find out how some of the characters were inspired from real people.
What about the author’s writing style?
If I start writing about the many positives of this book I think this review might never end. So, I am going to keep it short and stick to the basics.
When it comes to the plot, the book surely could have done better. There is a decent plot structure in place but it isn’t really creative or mind-blowing. What the book lacks in plot or storyline is more than compensated by the author’s powerful and captivating writing style.
I love how the story literally spans over decades. Though a majority of events that take place (at least all the important ones) in the story occur in the 1930s and early 1940s, the story itself takes multiple decades to reveal its full glory.
Was the climax good enough?
I think it will be best to not discuss anything about the climax as it would somehow entail giving away a lot of spoilers – something that I dread all the time.
It suffices to say that the climax was brilliant and gave a befitting end to the story of Gayatri Sen and Myshkin Rosario. As a reader I certainly got the closure I was expecting and that is a good thing.
It all boils down to the entertainment quotient
When it comes to the entertainment quotient All the Lives We Never Lived doesn’t fail the reader.
Despite the slow pace (which to many people is an entertainment killer), it has a very high emotional appeal which keeps the reader hooked on to it.
The book is emotional and raw and it was such a rare feat for me to finish a drama at such a fast pace.
Just go for it!
Pick up the book if
- You enjoy period dramas.
- You want to know what a good piece of Indian literature feels like.
- You like emotional reads especially the ones that have the ability to make you cry.
- You like books that explore themes of loneliness, grief, separation and guilt.
- You are looking for a book that is critically acclaimed and/or is by an Indian author.
Skip the book if
- You don’t enjoy dramas.
- You don’t like slow reads.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy a copy of All the Lives We Never Lived using the link below: