WRITING STYLE: 4/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
“The Force creates a protector for the baby, a red protein called Lactoferrin that fights with and kills bacteria. The Force ensures that Lactoferrin is found in mother’s milk so that the baby ingests it. The moment the baby drinks its mother’s milk, Lactoferrin enters its body and valiantly fights the harmful bacteria… This book is an initiative to generate awareness about this magnificent hero, Lactoferrin.”
One of my bookish resolutions every year is to read a given number of non-fiction books. Unfortunately, this year has been quite dismal when it comes to it. Unsurprisingly thus, when The Secret of the Red Crystals came my way for review I gladly accepted it on account of it being a memoir of an Indian research scientist. Not only it was to add to my non-fiction count but it was also something entirely new for me.
What to expect from this book?
My first impression of The Secret of the Red Crystals was very different from what it turned out to be. The cover and the title make the book look like a fantasy fiction but what lies inside is a surprise package. The book tells us the story of an Indian scientist Dr. Sujata Sharma in her own words. Sujata Sharma has contributed immensely to the field of medical sciences and has received many national and international awards. The book mostly deals with the part of her life that helped her become a successful scientist.
The writing style
The best part of The Secret of the Red Crystals is its writing style. Though almost 90% of the book is full of complicated technical and biophysical stuff, the way it is written makes it a gripping read. Barring the initial chapter, almost the entire book revolves around the story of the elusive red crystals of C Lobe of Lactoferrin (a type of protein) and its (almost cosmic) connection with the author.
Sujata Sharma writes in a style which makes the most complex of scientific terms and processes feel like a cakewalk. She does an incredible job of making the reader understand such scientific mumbo-jumbo in an easygoing manner and also gets them involved in her quest. It’s as if the quest is not just Sujata’s but the reader’s too. I also liked the way Sujata, unlike many other accomplished memoir-penning authors, does not boast about her accolades. She mostly writes about her shortcomings, inner turmoil and failures in her path to success and is most candid while doing so.
An inspirational read
The Secret of the Red Crystals would prove to be an inspirational read to any reader who chooses to read it but especially so for students/academicians/researchers who work in the field of medicine, biophysics, biotechnology etc. Sujata, as a student, had a choice to go for the easier and quicker path but she refrained from it. Instead, she chose the one that had been shunned by many others because of the difficulty and uncertainty involved in it. Anyone else in her place would have given up after putting more than a decade of hard work in getting those perfect crystals but not Sujata, and it is in this very sense, that her story is a truly inspirational one.
Plethora of Information
The book not only gives a good introduction on the wonder protein called Lactoferrin but also tells us a lot about various other scientists and their discoveries like Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen and his X-Ray, Maire Curie and her discovery of radium. This extra information further cements the belief that success comes not to those who just desire it but to those who give their all and work for it.
What did I enjoy?
I liked the way the book includes a lot of illustrations and sketches. The illustrations are those which help in better understanding and visualization of the scientific concepts spoken about in it while the sketches make the author’s personal life come alive. I have to say that there was a kind of puzzled joy which I experienced when I finally saw those perfect red crystals in all their glory. The black and white sketches were beautiful too.
What did I not enjoy?
The only thing that could have been better was the cover. It is hardly impressive and quite unappealing. I liked the creativity behind the design and concept. The idea of the author trying to decipher the secret of the red crystal is surely well conceived (the sheer brilliance of this I only realized in the end) but it could have done with better graphics and better quality.
The Final Verdict and the entertainment quotient
In my final thoughts on this book, I would like to reiterate that The Secret of the Red Crystals is a highly inspirational read which is as entertaining as it is motivating. The simple but rich language that Sujata makes use of, the easy breezy writing style that she employs, the relaxed candidness with which she narrates her own failures, and finally her humility and nonchalance about her own achievements, makes this book a good read.
Who should pick it?
Every reader who is looking for an inspirational read.
Every student/aspiring student of medicine and research.
Who should skip it?
Readers who don’t like to read about science.
Readers who don’t enjoy memoirs.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of The Secret of the Red Crystals using the link below.