PLOT: 2/5 CHARACTERS: 3/5 WRITING STYLE: 1/5 CLIMAX: 2/5 OVERALL: 2/5
“War Hero” by M K Davidasan is the story of a hero who fought in the Indo – Pak war of 1971. Its patriotic fervor infuses the reader with love and respect for the country, reminding the readers why a soldier does what he does.
“War Hero” is about the life of an Air Force pilot, Prabhakar who is Punjabi by birth but has lived in Kochi since childhood. The book covers all of his life’s aspects. The beginning focuses on the romantic excursions of Prabhakar with three women in an attempt to hook the reader to the book.
The next portion focuses on the one prospect that he chooses, namely, his wife. The subsequent part of the book discusses his married life and how life is like in an Army base. Davidasan covers parties, Officer’s Mess, quarter allotment issues, wage gaps, bubbling patriotism, the insecurities of the pilot’s family, what their wives and parents go through, the snobbery of some officials and the occupational risk that being a pilot includes.
The last portion of the book, the last eighty pages or so covers Prabhakar’s attempt to cross the Pakistani border to India. Davidasan opts to humanize ‘Pakistan’ for his readers. His narrative includes friendly wild animals, exotic snakes, and people who help Prabhakar financially while also risking their lives for him. But Prabhakar also doesn’t forget to show the villains that are present, in both the countries.
The first half chalks out the general issues that are faced by army men. It is an insider’s perspective and hence, unique. Unless you have a friend or relative in the Army, you wouldn’t have known about those things or issues. The sheer range of issues that the writer covers deserves a standing ovation.
There is a dream sequence, first of Prabhakar and then his father. The usage of a dream as a symbol has been aptly done to tell the readers what the prime fear of both these people was.
It added a mystical and layered touch to the story.
In the same manner, the usage of little girls as a symbol of innocence across borders is sure to bring a smile on the face of the reader. It made me feel elated that while showing the corruption prevalent in countries, the writer specifically mentioned that it was not limited to a single nation and was rampant on both sides of the border.
On blurry blurbs, lines, and insensitivity
If you are misled by the blub and think it is an adventure novel, it’s not. The attack that is talked about comes only in the second half of the book.
It feels important to mention here that a book, any book for that matter, has two components: The ‘what is written?’ component and the ‘how is it written?’ component. Davidasan in his “War Hero” has done a commendable job at ‘What is written’. It is the ‘How is it written’ part that I did not like.
First of all, the book contains so many copy-editing mistakes that the editor or copyeditor should have taken care of, not to mention the unspeakable typos that makes reading a difficult process.
Trigger Warning: Second of all, the frivolousness with which a suicide attempt and a rape scene have been dealt with, shocks the reader in me because of its insensitivity. Even if I play the devil’s advocate, maybe a person who has just attempted suicide will be cheerful and stop being sad because they realize it was a stupid mistake.
But, how do you never again mention that the main character was repeatedly raped, if I have understood correctly? And he never thought about it? If one was to say that the question of survival was more important, so he could not sit and cry about it then. But what about later? Did he ever tell his wife that he was repeatedly raped? How did she take it? Did he tell her that he literally killed the woman who saved him? If Prabhakar was going to bomb the building, he could have saved the girl’s life who freed his hands.
Very much like the language of the book, the ending was another disappointment. The entire section where Prabhakar gets beaten up in India felt like an unnecessary extension. The convenience of coincidence where Sujatha is just about to leave and Prabhakar is just reaching seemed a bit too much, to be honest. The book ended up disappointing me on various fronts.
Sujatha, a doctor and a good one at that, from the way it has been described, just gave up her job for marriage? Sneha never questioned Prabhakar after he came back married to another woman? Deepthi tried to commit suicide but everything is hunky-dory after one page?
The Final Verdict
I would suggest that you read this book if you want to get an insider’s perspective on the Army way of life. But you will have to endure the bad writing and if you make it past that, you can definitely enjoy the book.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of the “War Hero” using the link below.