PLOT: 5/5 CHARACTERS: 5/5 CLIMAX: 4.5/5 WRITING STYLE: 4.5/5 ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 5/5
With a subtle and aesthetically invigorating book cover, The Jamun Tree and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Richa Gupta. This collection is full of earthy ethos of genuine emotions, heartfelt ups and downs, and the urgency of embracing loved ones in times of crisis.
Most importantly, the collection is filled with moral values though not in a stringently didactic manner. It preaches through allusion and example. It explains and expresses the pain of love, loss, and longing which is what much of life is all about.
The collection comprises of nineteen short stories that are based on the saying of Kurt Vonnegut: “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” The plots are varied in each of the short stories and they are not interconnected.
Each story follows the model of beginning, middle, and end. They are complete in and of themselves and express the happenings in the life of the characters.
Meanings that run deep
Much like the titular story the Jamun tree, there is a moral or meaning at the end of each story that relates to human life and the struggle for existence.
For example, in the short story The Jamun Tree there is the story of the growth of the tree and the passing of generations of a family. This makes the tree symbolic of mortality and in much of the other stories, symbolism runs alongside the texts to enrich it and nurture deeper meanings.
The morals of the tales are subtly mentioned. In fact, they are not mentioned, they are to be deciphered through the reading of the tales. This can lead to multiple meanings that can be deciphered from the stories.
However, this does not lead to any confusion in understanding the stories. This is because each of the stories is complete and does not require any pre-requisite knowledge to gain a proper understanding of them. The stories are full of the pathos of the difficulty of life, the struggle to live, and the meaning of putting one’s best foot forward regardless of the circumstances.
The stories progress from one end to another at a gradual and moderate pace. There are not too many twists and turns in them. They unfold subtly and slowly and make their themes and ideas felt in a gradual manner.
The stories are filled with both major and minor characters. The characters come in different age groups and are both young, old, and middle-aged. Each of them has a significant role to play in forwarding the plot and taking it to another level. These characters are well-rounded and lend the plot a new direction.
These characters are archetypes or symbolic of a particular objective that they need to meet. This is seen in the way in which they deal with the hurdles that come in their way. Some characters leave the plot as they die but they remain etched in the reader’s memory as those who paved way for the plot and helped figure out the circumstances. Some of the most beautiful stories include Homecoming, The Human Touch, Perspective, and The Cryptic Crossword.
In The Jamun Tree and Other Stories, the writing style is simple and easy to follow. The vocabulary is moderately difficult but one that can be easily understood by the average reader. There are dialogues interspersed with the narrative in some of the tales.
An emotional ride
The pathos of the third-person narrative style merges with the pathos of the plot that engages the reader, evokes an emotional response, and creates an atmosphere of poignance and melancholy at the same time. This leads to a psychological deciphering of the way the mind works when struck with adversity.
Different people respond in different ways and this shows the struggle and the beauty of life. Overall, the book is to be read slowly and with attention and care. It is a good one-time read for lovers of short fiction and short story collections.
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Looking forward to reading this book.