Title: Ringa Ringa Roses
Author: Neil D’Silva
Ringa Ringa Roses is a collection of 3 stories bound together by the element of horror, each having children as protagonists.
Children of the Walls has precocious Nitya at the heart of the story, fighting demons all alone. The Clay Mother has an eerie replacement for lonely Nikhil’s dead mother. Two-tail is set in an orphanage with a bevy of children and odd characters fighting a mysterious two tailed monster.
The title of the book is taken from an innocuous sounding nursery rhyme which has chilling origins. It’s very reminiscent of disease and at a time when the world is grappling with a pandemic, strikes terror in the reader’s heart. The rhyme makes its appearance in at least 2 stories and the fading melody stays with you for a long time.
These stories are meant to horrify with the supernatural but in fact, the very real emotions associated with parental neglect and absence is the central theme of these stories. It is the children who save the day; adults don’t rise to their duty or responsibility. The children do seem mature beyond their years, displaying remarkably quick thinking and courage in the face of threat and fear.
I somehow couldn’t miss the fact that all the child protagonists had similar sounding names. All of them also displayed courage in challenging situations.
Nitya could handle the strange boy in her room who was always drawing on the walls that seemed to portend something and save herself from the black demon that had inhabited the wall of her room for ages. The wire mesh and the nails were the most chilling part of the story, strange enough to strike terror in your heart.
Nikhil could manage to take revenge on his mother’s honour and save her from the cruel family who were hell-bent on crushing her yet again, in another lifetime.
Nihar and Nupur, the brother and sister duo with secrets of their own, move to Little Paradise which has bigger secrets and surprises in store. It is Nihar who strikes the final blow to the monster and solves the entire mystery of children disappearing from the orphanage, every once in a while.
What Works Well
The descriptive passages are a treat. Children of the Walls has Nitya’s mother in the kitchen, hurriedly cooking. The scene where the pressure cooker goes out of control is so commonplace but described so magnificently. In The Clay Mother, the dining table and the ritual of eating together is the wonderful part, the food, the flavours, the smells and the patriarchal behavior leaving an indelible mark.
What Could Be Better
The plots seem convoluted at times, especially in Two-tail where the story gets curioser and curioser, leaving me to wonder if the idea was only to put in the element of horror completely and in all ways.
The dialogue in The Clay Mother seems to be in a vaccum, with no accompanying visuals to support the conversation.
Read it for the joy of storytelling and the fact that stories are meant to entertain. The horror element is thrilling yet not macabre. The imaginative scenes are sketched well enough for adolescent readers to give it a read.
This book review is written as part of Blogchatter Book Review Program.