I finished reading Ritoban Chakrabarti’s ‘Freaking novel’ today, the reason I am using this adjective for the book is that at the end of the ordeal I have to but presume that it is the author’s favourite word- ‘Freaking funny’, ’freaking hell’, ‘freaking planet’ and freaking brilliant’- the list continues. And how can I forget ‘ Ram sake’, dictionary please anyone! While I am still getting over the below average English grammar and choice of words let me do my duty of reviewing the book.
The story revolves around a boy who gets back to his town, Shimla after a stint of two years in a boarding school. What happens is something I wouldn’t stress upon much for reasons you will know at the end of this review. School life, studies, tuition, crushes, puppy love, friends, teachers, school fests, competitions, bus rides, parents, outings, trips, dance, games, siblings, loss, learning and disappointment are aspects of a typical Indian teen that are talked about in the story in different situations. While some scenes were close to reality, some in my opinion are pointless narration. The extreme detailing and the lack of flow only made me feel” So what?” at many places. There are contradictory statements here and there, in one scene he speaks about his wrist injury in the football field during boarding school days and says how painful it was- ‘HARD TO DESCRIBE’ (Pg 97) to the girl he is drooling at. A few flip of pages and you will find the wrist injury and pain again in a fight with his brother during a family trip to Rajasthan- ‘THE SINGLE MOST PAINFUL THING’ I wish the story moved on, well including the protagonist. The death of his sister who never came in any scene, apart from the few phone calls well even that did not add any empathy. I am sorry about this spoiler.
The theme or the skeleton of the story is totally Bollywood like, CB style but what murdered the plot was the abrupt ends between scenes. The shuttling between the past and present, I suppose that added to my trouble of interpreting what the author wanted to put across. At a point Roy seemed to be a determined and studious fellow, and at the next instance he was nothing short of a bozo calling the love of his life a ‘chicken to be caught in a basket’! And the same guy calls his guy friend ‘cutie pie’. I repeat again, the choice of words and grammar is what gave me many heart aches. If one were to look at the story from a fifteen year old boy's point of view, maybe this can pass the test. A decent adolescent Indian fiction, nothing beyond that. I am hoping for a day when Indian authors make me proud that I read them, no excuses just because the author is a debutant! I wish I could end this review just like the end of the story, abrupt. The title ‘When She Smiled’ made sense only in the last page, and that was the turning point, the closure. Done and dusted.
Title: When She Smiled
Author: Ritoban Chakrabarti
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Number of pages: 232
My rating: 1.5/5
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