Missing, Presumed Dead by Kiran Manral

Missing, Presumed Dead by Kiran Manral can very easily be a treatise on marriage and mental illness. Instead, it’s one step ahead, a thriller that builds the suspense and the distrust in your heart slowly, bringing it to a menacing level that chills the reader.

The book begins with the description of quiet domesticity, children who are adored, a serene hill town and a placid pace of life. However, the peace is disturbed by the afternoon doorbell, the arrival of a strikingly similar-in-looks half-sister and the incessant rain and storm.

Soon, peace gives way to chaos as Aisha peels back the layers of her memories and her present life. Her marriage has been fractured for some time, she battles her mental demons, she is living with an unsupportive spouse, a teenaged daughter who shows signs of an eating disorder and through it all, Heer arrives, the person Aisha has abhorred for years.

In a matter of days, Aisha disappears and she is declared missing, presumed dead. But the reader is privy to Aisha’s story. For the next few days, as she ostensibly takes back control of her life but is actually sliding away from reality, the mystery gets deeper.

Who is right, who is good, who has ulterior motives, is there an unreliable narrator, are questions that the reader grapples with.

In places, the prose becomes almost poetic and wise as the story moves along. It is a beautiful delving into marriage and relationships as also into the dark recesses of a person’s mind. The last part is surprising, moving swiftly into the realm of betrayal and avarice.

Read the book for a good storyline and exploration of the nature of relationships. The mental health angle is deeply researched and sensitively handled.

This post is part of BlogchatterA2Z.

Xanadu by Harshita Nanda: Book Review

Title: Xanadu
Author: Harshita Nanda
Format: Ebook

Xanadu is a sensitive portrayal of the harsh realities and the sweet redemption following the life arc of 3 people; lonely and struggling and finding succour in their companionship.

Book Blurb

A young girl is living a simple life surrounded by nature and the love of her parents. An earthquake destroys her home and changes her life forever.

A young boy is struggling with the loss of his mother. As a reward for honesty, he gets a step up in life but has to leave behind all that is familiar.

An old lady lives alone, surrounded by memories and whispers of the past.

What is the link between the three?

Where is their Xanadu?

About the Author

Harshita Nanda is an avid reader and a lover of the written word. A chance win at a short story competition ignited the writing spark in her. Starting from book reviews, she moved on to writing short stories and dabbling in flash fiction. Xanadu is her first time attempting a novella.

The Story

Miss Anita, a vivacious, beautiful Anglo Indian, who has everything when it comes to material possessions and love, sees a turn of tides. The partition of India changes her world and opportunities. To her lonely existence comes Bhoomi, a young girl who has been uprooted from her home in the hills because of an earthquake that destroyed their home and took away her father. The child finds a kindly and maternal figure in Miss Anita as she navigates a hostile time with her relatives. Harish is the troubled and mischievous boy, whose father has brought him to the big town for the treatment of his wife who passes away.

Emotionally scarred, the three seek out each other’s company. But fate’s twists separates them as they go their ways in search of better lives. Will they be happy? Can they ever be reunited?


Right from the first page, I was engrossed in the story that felt familiar in a way, for it spoke of the people I have seen growing up. The young children, their parents, their extended families and societal reactions, the insights of the author are commendable. 

The places, the hills, the villages and the towns where much of the story is set radiated a warmth. There is a depth to the detailing of the setting, no matter which the place is. I could feel at ease whether it was the village or the gardens of large houses, an army officer’s residence or even New York.

The characters in the book are very relatable. The protagonists have been sketched out so well; one can understand their thoughts and emotions and their life choices. Their struggles are unfortunate but I could understand all the situations.

The story arc is developed in an excellent way. Even though the story spans decades, you never lose touch of the emotional turmoil of the characters.


Xanadu is a novella of beauty and emotional depth. Spanning lifetimes, decades and places, it’s a heartwarming story of ties that may not be familial but that bind and comfort.

The book is available for free download here.

This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.

Lanny by Max Porter: Book Review

Title: Lanny

Author: Max Porter

Genre: Fiction

Lanny is a missing-child story, of villages and their inhabitants, of the ordinary lives of people that have an undercurrent of magic.

Book Cover of Lanny by Max Porter

Lanny, the little boy lives with his parents in a small village near London. One day, he goes missing and the seemingly ordinary life of the village breaks up.

The book is sparse and extravagant in turns, in words and in description.
The short sentences, delivered stacatto style, quick paragraphs, rapidly changing points of view gives a dizzying feeling of a camera panning over a landscape. The snatches of phrases, bits of overheard conversations, heard through an ancient spirit (a ghost or a noble soul – you cannot decide till the end) adds to the feeling of being an observer.

The story is a mix of the ancient and the modern. The beginning is most beguiling, with the charming English village, pastoral and also close to modernity. The characters and emotions waft from the ordinary to engaging, as in Jolie’s inability to be ‘good with visual things’ and the development of fragile and lyrically beautiful relationships.

Undoubtedly, Dead Papa Toothwort is central to the narrative. Adding spook and mysticism to the village and the story, he or ‘it’ is the ultimate evil spirit, only that it is benevolent. To the seemingly peaceful village existence, it adds a layer of dread or suspense that keeps building.

The child Lanny is loveable, not just through the eyes of his besotted mother Jolie, but also through the time worn eyes of Pete, the once-famous artist and even Peggy, the eccentric old dame. He is quite ‘acceptable’ and seems to possess an intuition that belies his years. Peter Blythe, the once famous and now reclusive artist has an undercurrent of familiarity with him.

Toothwort and Lanny, old and young, knowing all and curious to know, destroying and building are two archetypes that are complete opposites and yet complicit in their similarities. As Toothwort says to Lanny, ‘You remind me of me’. 

What’s exciting is the text in italics that interrupts the storyline now and then, those snatches of conversations, delicious in their incompleteness with a sense of anticipation of the real, complete conversation. The words go up and down the page, curling, disappearing into margins so that the intense feeling of words wafting across space is not lost on the reader.

Then there is the text in bold, that you slow down and read because it’s the Dead spirit that has possessed the land forever and ever, like a guardian soul or a witness to all upheavels. It makes you drop everything in the story and drink in the words hungrily because there’s most magic here.

The book itself feels like a play in 3 acts. The first is most interesting, the second predictable and the third redeemed itself by the unexpected ending. There is a feeling of being a witness throughout the narrative. It is accentuated by Dead Papa Toothwort’s wanderings and observance of the village folk. In a way, the central character of Lanny is also a perspective of different people. The last act, the Village Hall performance and Jolie’s excursion into space where time parts for her to watch Lanny makes the reader an observer.

There is a tiny feeling of anti-climax because the reader is herded towards a showdown of a century that involves the entire village. The village hall scene borders on magic, where you don’t know the difference between reality and imagination.

The books ends quite satisfactorily, unexpectedly tying up all the threads after all the dark foreboding that was served up.


Read ‘Lanny’ for the verdant description and the expanse of imagination and mysticism that runs as a central thread through the tapestry of the narrative.

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: Book Review

Title: My Sister, the Serial Killer

Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a debut book by a Nigerian author, longlisted for the Booker Prize 2019. Set in Lagos, with mindless killings at the center of the plot, it is a study of complicated human relationships and sibling fidelity.

The story

Korede is a hard working nurse in a large hospital, compassionate, meticulous, observant and a disciplinarian. In sharp contrast is her younger sister Ayoola, strikingly beautiful, seductress, careless and with no moral compass.

Ayoola has a string of men always at her beck and call but curiously all her boyfriends die a little while into the relationship. Ayoola tells her sister that she kills them in self defense and calls her to dispose off the bodies. The efficient nurse that Korede is, she does a clean job of tipping the bodies off a bridge. The killings happen with alarming regularity and Korede is forced to confront her sister and her own fears that float in her mind after all the bodies and men who get killed are highlighted by the media.

Why is Korede so protective of her sister even though Ayoola manipulates Korede to her own advantage, putting her love, reputation and life in jeopardy?


I am used to long rambling sentences, dreamy imagery and plenty of allegory in the Booker longlisted books. My Sister, the Serial Killer was a breath of fresh air because the writing is sparse and to-the-point. The title tells you exactly what to expect, which is good because in a thriller you want to be in the middle of action and things to move quickly.

The book does not deviate from the central theme at all and it’s a short book. The punches are subtle, like the corruption in Lagos that’s as normal as breathing to the people living there or the unlikely relationships that you develop in life, as of Korede’s with her comatose patient.

In spite of the unwavering focus of the book, Braithwaite has managed to introduce variation in the way the narrative works. There is a chapter that describes how bodies are disposed off in a question and answer format. There are observations by Korede that are put in parentheses, that goes very well with the pithy narrative and lends a wry humour to the book.

In spite of the killings, a dysfunctional family, deadly family secrets, infidelity, manipulation, jealousy, the story does not turn into a melancholic tale with heart-wrenching emotions. Instead it is an observation into cause-and-effect of human actions, a very realistic portrayal of how life really is – many times without rhyme or reason with an underlying humour of how some things remain unchanged.

When I started reading the book, I looked at the characters very closely; they are very well drawn; because this was a book about murders and a killer and I was looking for hidden motivations. Korede is so careful and meticulous that it seems almost like an OCD. Her observation is phenomenal – she sees the absent ring on the finger of married men, she understands the workings of desire and male attention even though she has not been at the receiving end. Ayoola seems like a sweet, misled girl who kills because she does not know any better. It is only later that her manipulative self is revealed. More layers from characters are peeled off as the story moves forward. Even Tade, the love interest of both sisters turns out to be a completely different person as the story progresses.

There are little touches that make the book memorable, the 9 inch long knife that Ayoola uses to kill her victims and that nearly kills her, the bleeding-to-death father and Ayoola being afraid of going to a stranger’s place, not understanding what she was getting into but latching on to her sisters dread. The little snippets tell the story of how families and siblings gravitate to each other for comfort and security when they have no one else to look out for them.

There are little details that do not sit well with me. The colossal inefficiency of the police, not just in Lagos but also in Dubai, the separate living quarters of the sisters in the beginning of the book and then moving into their common house, the mention of Whitney Houston and R. Kelly songs that are Ayoola’s favourite and then the mention of Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat in the same breath felt a little anachronistic.


A short read that examines familial loyalty, sibling rivalry and the legacy of abuse all in the backdrop of serial killings.

I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa.

Dylan’s Cozydoze by Elsa Joseph: Book Review

Title: Dylan’s Cozydoze

Author: Elsa Joseph

Genre: Children’s book

Dylan’s Cozydoze is a beautifully illustrated book of verse that tells an endearing story of a little boy and his blanket that he takes everywhere with him.


Dylan’s Cozydoze is meant for children under 5 years of age. Since the book is for children who cannot read independently, the book has a lot of illustrations that can tell the story stand-alone.

Reading it aloud, the book is very interesting as it is in verse, nothing very strict but enough to be pleasant to a young reader.

The story is very relatable to young children. Dylan, a little boy, has a blanket, rather a muslin cloth he is very attached to. He cannot sleep without it. So his parents take it along when they go to visit his Granny for the weekend. All goes well till it’s time for bed and they cannot find his Cozydoze. Tantrums and a hunt for the missing blanket ensues.

The story ends on a sweet note that would make all young readers happy.

It is a short read at 26 pages, with little verses and plenty of pictures, just enough length to keep the young audience engaged during daytime and bedtime.


Pick Dylan’s Cozydoze to delight your little one with a sweet tale and excellent pictures.

Which is your favourite book for children? What do you like best about it?

I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa.

The Adventures of the JP Family by Radhika Acharya: Book Review

Title: The Adventures of the JP Family

Author: Radhika Acharya

Genre: Humour

The Adventures of the JP Family is a delightful collection of the mundane and routine events in an average middle class household, all with a humorous twist.

Book Blurb

26 witty and humorous short stories, running through the Alphabets from a to Z.

Get ready to be entertained and amused with this hilarious account of the ordinary everyday lives of The JP Family – the affable JayPrakash Uncle, the formidable but kindly Aunt and their two young sons – Raju and Raghu.

About the Author

Radhika Sharma Acharya was born in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh; brought up in Panaji, Goa; married in Mumbai, Maharashtra and is at present living in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She has been writing since her college days and has won prizes in writing contests. She has also written short humorous articles for the Navhind Times in Goa and for Khaleej Times Dubai.


The book is about the lives of Jayaprakash Uncle or JP, his wife, referred to as the Aunt and their two sons, Raju and Raghu. It is a typical middle class family, honest, down-to-earth, amicable.

The stories are developed from the ordinary events of any household and told with endearing wit and humour.

I liked Bisi Bele Baath for the flowery description and the word play. Do You Know is fun and I could completely relate to the harangue about the slipping standards of ‘modern-day’ songs. The French Connection made me giggle at the fiasco with a kitchen gadget. Bad Hair Days is superbly written and the humour in a very normal situation is brought out subtly. Keeping up with the Kanherias is likely to strike a chord with every reader. A thumbs-up to Leave it to Me for making me laugh at the rendition of what I have seen happening so many times in so many households. Time Flies at the JP House and Vegetable Cutter and the Aunt had me in splits.

What works well

First off, the characters are lovable. Uncle JP is an honest, God-fearing man, caring towards his family. His attempts to help (with the French mixer) and his intentions to help around the house (the lightbulb that never gets changed) makes him popular with the readers.

The Aunt is the femme fatale of the book, loving, caring, cooking (let’s not ask the family how good it is), pushing the entire household into activities that somehow end in misadventures and laughs.

The boys, Raju and Raghu look-on, egg-on and are part of the drama that unfolds every other day.

The situations in the book are the mundane and the light hearted which makes it a very feel-good book.

The only thing I wished for was that there be more of the family’s adventures in the book.


A feel-good family saga that elicits quite a few chuckles and leaves you with a smile. Go with it if you enjoy lighthearted wit and affable characters.

This book review is written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program.

Get the book from the virtual library of the Blogchatter website. It is free to download and read for a limited time.

Vanara by Anand Neelakantan: Book Review

Title: Vanara: The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara

Author: Anand Neelakantan

Genre: Mythological Fiction

Vanara is an awe inspiring book, epic in its sweep and reach, evoking emotions that you normally keep under wraps. It is the story of Baali and Sugreeva, the brothers in the epic Ramayana and the woman in their lives, Tara.

The Story

Vanara, the title of the book refers to a tribe of Van Naras, the forest dwellers. Baali and Sugreeva are Van Naras, born in poverty and growing up as slaves. Fighting fate and going through tribulations, Baali, along with Sugreeva goes on to build a grand city, Kishkindha for his people so that they can escape slavery and discrimination.

But the peace and the fate of the city takes a turn for the worse because of a fraternal war between the once inseparable brothers. It is precipitated by the beautiful Tara who is desired by both the brothers.


The story of Baali and Sugreeva, though steeped in mythology is stripped of fantasy elements and develops rationally. The story builds the world on the foundation of rationality and detail eg. why certain people were considered dasa (slaves), the intermingling of the races etc so that the reader needs no introduction to mythology. In fact, that is a huge plus point. I like to read books without delving much into the background of the main premise of the book. I like the book to unfold its own magic and Vanara did it so beautifully for me.

Vanara is a story that shows the viewpoint of the characters. There is no right or wrong, no hero or villain. The roles of the characters depends on their circumstances. There is a blurring of line between good and evil and this is what sets the book apart.

After reading the book, I am tempted to go in search of the various versions of stories around the main characters in mythology. From my meagre knowledge of these stories, heard and read sometime in my childhood, I recognised many different versions of the details. It is amazing to see how oral storytelling leads to the evolution of stories.

What works well

The descriptive passages in the book are so well written that the reader is immersed in the story. Every little detail counts, every rustle of leaves heard, the breeze felt, the flowers smelt; the writer evokes all the senses and more through the emotions of the characters.

The prose is delightfully lyrical. The scenes of the forest where the story is set are described so vividly. I could feel the moonlight, see the canopy of trees and shiver with anticipation.

“Through the cracks in the canopy, moonlight fell like butter oozing out of a sieve.”

The story is a sweeping analysis of the human psyche in that the emotions wash over you: anger, hatred, fear, oneness with nature. The characters are developed through the emotions they feel.

Some passages in the book are awe inspiring.

“From afar, a night bird sang a melodious note…The monkey song reverberated in the air, as free as the breeze and as fragrant as wild honey. It fell on them like rain, gentle, soothing and sweet. The forest responded with a vigour…Their songs merged and rose to the heaven…”

The pace of the story is excellent. For many books, there is a lull in the middle of the book. The characters are there, the setting set out, the conflict introduced. But for Vanara, the book gets engrossing by the middle and after that it just keeps getting better. At no point did I feel like putting down the book.

There is a strong and apt commentary on the social issues which are very relevant to us today. Untouchability, development of caste, nationalism that changes to jingoism, the justification of wrong actions under the garb of ideology, the futility of war, the degradation of values, the intolerance towards diversity, they are all dealt with and make the reader think.

The cover art is gorgeous, the few illustrations scattered around the book tease the reader.

What does not work so well

There are little inconsistencies strewn through the book which are jarring. Thankfully, these are minor, they do not have a bearing on the larger picture or the main story and I was able to move on without much trouble.

The story is set in a time period that goes back centuries so when the characters regress/progress to the modern day language, it’s a jolt and strikes a false note.

There is also plenty of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ the events, inner turmoil and emotions of the characters. This feels that the prose is unpolished and a little hurried so that the writer could get to the next part.


Vanara is the ultimate celebration of the centuries old storytelling tradition of India that have myriad versions of mythology and many embellishments. Read it for the story, the description and the emotions.

I got a copy of this book for an honest and unbiased review. This review is written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program.

Murder in the Palace and Other Stories by Priya Bajpai: Book Review

Title: Murder in the Palace and Other Stories

Author: Priya U Bajpai

Genre: Short Stories

Murder in the Palace and Other Stories is a delightful collection of stories where world building and exquisite language go hand in hand.


The book has twelve stories, short, sweet and tangy. Starting from a contemporary detective story, the book moves on to other genres that explore time travel, sci fi, romance, feminism among others with a wide variety of settings. There is a story for everyone here.

The book starts with the eponymous story, Murder in the Palace and the most striking detail of the story is the detective herself. It seems a complex whodunit but the answers are found surprisingly fast and through deduction. I liked the way the story gets straight to the point from the first paragraph itself and yet there is no glossing over the backstory.

Geisha is expectedly set in Japan. It is such a lovely and poignant story. I was transported to a world of beauty, grace, elegance and love that is expressed in subtle ways.

Horrific Holocaust is set in Germany and brings into focus the Holocaust through teenage angst.

I’m II is science fiction that is chilling and is a little too real for comfort. The narrative is captivating.

The Mysterious Globe is almost magical, but it teases and seems unfinished.

I liked the Killer very much. It has an interesting twist in the tale and was so different from the stories I had read till that point.

Mia of Maya is wondrous. The narrator here is from the Mayan civilization and it is not the mere life but the wiping out of an entire people that the story addresses.

Dazzled and Banon’s Conundrum are also very striking stories, with completely unexpected endings.

Neil’s Shoe closes this collection and I was left with an other-worldly feeling, not just from this story but from the heady mix that I had just finished.

What works well

Priya has a very literary writing style and a way with world building that is very elaborate and yet succinct. All through the book, I was constantly struck by how versatile she is, through the choice of the storylines.

Each story is a different world and an experience in itself. I did not read the stories in one go. I picked them at random, savouring them.

The cover art of the book is gorgeous and is a definite plus for the book.

About the Author

Priya U Bajpai is a short story author and poet. She has also been published in mainstream newspapers. This literature scholar is a versatile story-teller. She is adept at writing fast-paced and layered tales across genres. This extremely modest writer lets her craft do the talking.


This eclectic mix of stories show case a wide range of settings and emotions. Pick this collection if you like vivid descriptions and a literary writing style.

Download the book here. It is free for a limited period.

A Wonderful Quest

There are times that a book comes along which is so refreshing and different that it forces you to step out of your mental comfort zone and look for answers.

The Quest of the Sparrows by Ravi ‘Nirmal’ Sharma and Kartik Sharma, the father-son duo, is a read that has inspired me to live an authentic life and to be generous. I am grateful to the Universe for conspiring to bring this book to me which has been such a lot of joy.

The Quest of the Sparrows

Take a look at the philosophy that guided the writing of the book.


Read the review of the book here.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley: Book Review

Title: Elmet

Author: Fiona Mozley

Genre: Fiction, Gothic Noir

Elmet, the debut novel of 29-year old Ph.D scholar Fiona Mozley, is a world in itself. It sweeps across a haunting and beautiful landscape and tells the story of an unlikely family and their strong bonding.

I chose to read Elmet because it seemed the lightest in the pile of books that had been shortlisted for the 2017 Booker. Considered a surprise inclusion for the Booker longlist, it managed to make it to the final 6. The book may be light, but it packs quite a punch in the way of language and world building.

Elmet starts with an epigraph from Ted Hughes photography and poetry book, ‘Remains of Elmet’. It introduces Elmet as a Celtic Kingdom and mentions that even as late as the seventeenth century, it was considered ‘badlands’, geographically secluded and sheltering fugitives.
Elmet covered an area in what is now northern England, referenced as far back as the early middle ages.

The author, Fiona Mozley is pursuing a doctorate level research in early mediaeval history so it is only expected that her debut work would incorporate her area of study along with her own experiences that show up as themes of possession and ownership in the book.

Historically, Elmet finds a mention in early Welsh poetry and the landscape in the book reminded me of the wonderful classic, ‘How green was my valley’ by Richard Llewellyn, that I had read years ago.


Elmet starts with a run and a search across the country. It then backtracks into telling us the story of John, the fighter, usually on the other side of the law and his children, Cathy and her brother, Daniel, who is the narrator in the book.

John, the larger-than-life fighter, with a fearsome reputation brings his two children to the woods and builds a house for them all. They live on the fringes of the society, though the reason for that is never convincing. They are away from towns and away from people, fending for themselves. The children learn the skills that their father imparts. But, they run into trouble over the land that they occupy. A landlord intrudes upon their world and thus begins the fight to reclaim their home.

The family stays close through the tribulations and they fight for each other till the very end, even when all seems lost.

Elmet is more about the countryside and its beauty. It starts slow, casting a loving eye on the landscape. It is only after many many pages that the characters come into focus and we get a feel of their emotions and their perceptions. The pace stays languid and the conflict builds slow. Unexpectedly, in the last quarter, the book finds steam and chugs ahead.

What works well

Elmet is an unfamiliar setting of wild Yorkshire landscape, but the stranger it was, the more I sank into it, absorbing it all. I built their world in my head, seeing it clearly through narration.

The house that John builds with his own hands is described so lovingly.

“Waiting is what a true house is about. Making it ours, making it settle, pinning it and us to the seasons, to the months and to the years.”

I knew each crack in the walls of the house and the trees in the copse, even the one mutilated by the lamps at Christmas. They live near railway tracks, which are what Daniel follows as he goes for a search, through the book.

“We heard them often enough: the hum and ring of the passenger trains, the choke and gulp of the freight, passing by with their cargo tucked behind in painted metal tanks. They had timetables and intervals of their own, drawing growth rings around our house with each journey, ringing past us like prayer chimes.”

The central character, John is delineated very well and so is his daughter Cathy, who is his spitting image, in body and spirit. The child, Daniel, with his proclivity to Viviene and to learning and a warm home is drawn well. His longing for a motherly figure is touching. The scene where he spies on Viviene, her clothes and toilette, shows the guileless love and instinctive attraction to feminine things.

The physicality of the characters plays a strong role in marking them out. There is John, a veritable giant with calcified fingers and knuckles. Viviene has wide hips that Cathy hates, perhaps because it is an indication of what Cathy herself would become one day. As she enters her sixteenth year, Cathy becomes ungainly. She is not graceful any longer and the change in her physical appearance points to her volatile emotions. Daniel, living away from society and not having to conform to any rules for appearance and dress, has long hair, long nails, wearing midriff short tshirts, like a girl. It underlines his homely nature; he likes to keep a house comfortable.

The description of Elmet at the beginning, brought to my mind a place dark and forbidding. But the cover art is cheerful and uplifting.

What does not work so well

Elmet starts with a languid description and the setting is perfectly built. However the characters are brought on slowly and it is only after a while that we understand them and their emotions. The children are mere shadows in the beginning pages. It is when their grandmother dies and they keep a vigil, trusting no one but breaking down when their father arrives, is the place where the children acquire emotions and show vulnerability.

Many characters in the book are not explained at all. We never knew what troubles John so much or what is it that he should have told his children honestly. The children’s mother and her comings and goings, remains a mystery. At one point, Price is on the verge of talking more of her but Daniel changes his mind about asking about his mother and she stays relegated to the unknown. Viviene is another inexplicable character. A woman of the world, well traveled, with a wide knowledge of the sciences and the arts, she lives alone in the middle of nowhere. I could not make up my mind about her at all nor could I understand her disinterest and her motivations.

Many situations in the book are not seen through. The uprising of the serfs against their master had a promise that was never fulfilled. The theme of exploitation and class conflict stays underdeveloped.

The child Daniel, the narrator, grows up suddenly after his father’s desertion. This transition is a little abrupt. The 14 year old has a language that is beyond his years and his knowledge.

There is very little dialogue in the book. Elmet plods through a lot of description. And yet, inspite of everything, the few places when the characters do bare their souls, they bring forth truth which is incredibly beautiful.

Cathy says of her decisions and her actions,

“We all grow into our coffins, Danny. And I saw myself growing into mine.”

The action is gripping only towards the end. Till then, it looks like a meditation on the place and a little about the characters’ daily lives.

There are so many ways in which I felt shortchanged and yet Elmet is like life and like people; flawed but beautiful in its imperfection.


This debut novel about an inaccessible world, familial loyalty and the impact of unfettered violence on lives is beautifully written.
Read it for the brilliant language and for the joy of experiencing another world.

I am doing the 2017 Man Booker shortlisted book reviews in collaboration with Bloggeray from Musingsite. Read his excellent review here.