WRITING STYLE: 4.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
I have always been fascinated by the Indian military system; be it the army, navy, air force or any other. I’ve read quite a few books on the subject but all of them were thrillers or biographies or war treatises. So this book, whose plot is based on the personal lives of army men and their families, seemed promising and I was eager to read and review it. I approached the author, Ismita, for a reviewers’ copy and she was kind enough to oblige. Jacob Hills is so interesting that I finished reading it in 5 straight hours.
The story of this book, as the title suggests, is about Jacob Hills, a war college for advanced training and its incumbents – army men and their families. The plot basically surrounds the lives of six army families and a murder mystery thrown in. The story begins when Major George, along with his wife Eva, arrives in Jacob Hill for a temporary posting as an instructor. Being an upright man and a second generation army man, he finds the lifestyle here, a bit peculiar.
During their stay, they come across many unusual things going on in Jacob Hill; The Key Club, run by George’s friends Gary and Pam, organises wife swapping; Eva finds that a student of hers is being molested; many children are found to have cigarette burn marks on their bodies and; a woman is found murdered. There are many sub-plots in the book, each have its own purpose. The basic premise is to bring out as many different lifestyles as possible. Each sub-plot gives a peek into a particular lifestyle which is true not only for the army but our society in general. The author has touched upon many sensitive issues in the book like wife swapping, incest, gender discrimination, class division etc.
The language in Jacob Hills is simple and very easy to read. The plot too, is without any complications which makes the reading easy. This is the first book I’ve come across which is written in multiple-first-persons, where each chapter is told by a different character. This is a very innovative way and makes a simple story intriguing. This also helps us to view the same events from different point of views.
The characters in Jacob Hills are another plus for Jacob Hills. Each character is described with so much certainty that you feel like you’ve known them forever. All of them are unique and mysterious in their own ways and you cannot escape their charm. Ismita has done a wonderful job with the narration. If she wants you to hate a character, you will hate it; if she wants you to love it, you’ll love it, which is not an easy task to achieve in a non-thriller.
One negative point I’d like to add about the book is that the synopsis at the end of the book is vague and misleading. The murder mystery is a very minor sub-plot and Jacob Hills shouldn’t be read assuming that the murder is the main plot. I would recommend this book to people who are looking for a slow and steady story without much complications in the plot.