WRITING STYLE: 4.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4.5/5
Just a couple of months ago I finished reading Tanaz Bhathena’s debut novel A Girl Like That. Before that, I was reading Aashish Gupta’s Demons in My Mind, and now, I started the month of July with Bhavani Iyer’s Anon. The one thread that binds these three books together is that they are some of the most astounding debut Indian novels that I’ve ever read. Read on to know my thoughts about Anon and why I think it should definitely be your next read.
Font, readability and quality of the book
A lot of my readers often ask me questions about the paper quality, font size and the general quality of a book. Keeping that in mind, I have decided to add this little section so they can decide for themselves whether to buy a particular book or not.
Anon is published by Fingerprint Publishers and the book has a total number of 306 pages. This number would have been much higher if the font size was kept larger. But sadly, the font size is a little too small for my liking and that can result in a poor reading experience. Everything else about Anon is just impeccable. Amongst other things, the paper quality is also good and so is the general look and feel of the book.
What is the story like?
The story of Anon is set in Kolkata of the sixties and seventies and tells us the tale of two young men who are both bound by their common love for writing.
Urbish is the son of an ordinary impoverished fisherman from the Sunderbans, for whom his father is his only role model. At a very young age he his fascinated by the English language and wants to learn it but there’s only one problem – nobody in his small village knows English. His father decides to take him to Kolkata and tries to get him into an English medium school.
Debottam is the son of one of the wealthiest Zamindars in Kolkata and there is nothing in this material world that he doesn’t have. He, however, craves for the something else. Between a half-sane mother and an indifferent and disciplinarian father, all Debottam really cares for are his words and maybe a little bit of love.
Decades pass and soon these two become handsome young men, shaped as much by their births and circumstances as by their attitudes in life. Writing is the one link that brings them together and writing is the one language that they both understand better than anyone else. There’s just a slight difference though, one is willing to die to write and the other is willing to kill to write.
How good are the characters?
Each character in Anon is a treat to read about. Be it the main characters of Urbish or Debottam or others like Moyna, Avadi, Anna etc. All the characters have a certain depth in them and they easily make a connection with the readers.
My favourite character is Urbish because of his sheer willpower and his steely determination. I like the way, like any other mortal being, he has his bad moments and shortcomings. While Deb is like a free bird – unreachable and unattainable, Urbish is a guy who teaches you to dream. Just by living his life the way he does, he is able to inspire the reader to sweat it out and succeed.
What about the author’s writing style?
There are many things which make Bhavani Iyer’s writing so good. The first is the excellent plot which spans decades, cities, multitudes of people and yet amongst all this swarm, it is able to retain the core element of the book – the narration. Notwithstanding so many pleasant distractions and surprise plot twists, Anon remains hundred percent about writing and about how it can make or break somebody.
Amongst other things that make this book such a great read, the foremost is Iyer’s ability to beautifully weave the culture of the place (Bengal) into her narration. The vivid descriptions of the Sundarbans, its flora and fauna, the culture of its people, the city of Kolkata and its many wonders – both decadent and elegant, the oral history of its people – it is these things so effortlessly incorporated in the story that makes the writing stand out.
The author’s inexhaustible knowledge of literature, both classic and contemporary, be it in English or Latin or Bengali, also finds itself lending a distinct flavour to this book. These subtle elements of knowledge do not overpower the narrative at any point in time. They simply add to the book’s charm and its many positives.
The plot itself is tight-knit and a bit complex, yet, the way the story flows from one section to another is smooth and flawless. Anon sometimes feels like a long read but this is a minute flaw in an otherwise exceptional book.
Let’s talk about the climax
The only thing that left me a bit unsatisfied was the climax. It wouldn’t be fair on my readers if I get into the specifics but it’s safe to say that the climax could have been better. It just felt a bit incomplete and did not do justice to the brilliant story of Urbish and Debottam.
It finally boils down to the entertainment quotient
The sum total of any review boils down to this one aspect – entertainment quotient, which in the case of Anon is right on point. The book fairs really well in keeping the reader engaged and I personally liked every bit of it. To a few readers, the book may come across as a bit slow but to be honest, which good drama isn’t slow? I think the true beauty of a great drama can never be captured by action and noise; it is the silence that is often a mark of its brilliance.
What I absolutely loved?
There are many things that I unquestionably loved about Anon but if it’s a single favourite that I have to talk about, then it is the sheer contrast between Debottam and Urbish’s backgrounds and personalities and how, despite their many difference, the easy camaraderie that they share is unequivocal.
What could have been better?
In my opinion the cover did not do justice to this delightful story. Even though it is able to showcase a connection with the beautiful Bengali language and writing in general, it fails to impress. In my version of the cover, in addition to the aforementioned elements, I would aptly put the Howrah bridge in the backdrop and some vintage looking pictures of Kolkata to truly give it a sixties-seventies vibe.
Pick it up if
If I start to jot down a list of reasons I am afraid it will turn into yet another review. So, I am going to give you a really simple one here – if you love serious literature and want to have a taste of what good Indian literature really feels like, Anon should definitely be on your must-read list.
Skip it if
Well, honestly, I can’t find a single reason for you to not pick this book up but if you still want to go down that road, I would suggest readers who don’t enjoy period dramas to refrain from Anon.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Anon from the link below.