Friday, July 12, 2013

Jacob Hills by Ismita Tandon Dhanker - A Book review

Jacob Hills by Ismita Tandon Dhanker promises to be a story that draws you into the darkness lying behind the bright veneer of an army station. I have normally found that such stories work best when the story opens with a brightness and love for a couple of newbies in the area and, slowly, the story get darker and darker as the newcomers discover layer after layer of grime. Needless to say, such stories are normally told from the point-of-view of the newcomers. I need also to give the disclaimer that I am not partial to dark tales.

Jacob Hills is a tale of dark happenings in an army station of the 80s. Though the incidents of the tale are dark, I need mention that the narrative is not. Whether it works or not for a connoisseur of this genre I would not know but I found the book readable because it was written this way. The book is quite interesting and the English excellent - something that I am finding to be relatively rare in Indian publishing. The author has managed to keep interest in a relatively large cast of characters and managed to keep the clarity of the intertwined story lines.

The author has managed to maintain this clarity despite using a multiplicity of point-of-view characters. Each chapter is told from a different person's point of view. No matter how laudable I may find her command over her narrative, I must say that the story would probably have come out far better if she had adopted the newcomer's point of view and opened out the story. Starting the story with a scene of darkness sets the mood for expecting more of the same and, thus, the novel does not work as a journey from seeming brightness to muddy depths. Also, some of the murk is described in almost an offhand manner thus converting it into something like party gossip rather than dark secrets.

The book is a very good read as it is written. It could have been written far better and been made memorable but in that, alas, the author has not succeeded.

22 comments:

  1. I agree with your comments, but I have to say that her current book is far better than her previous one :)

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    1. Wouldn't know abt that Prasanna :) Hvnt read that yet :)

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  2. Crisp and candid review. I shall be receiving this book for review soon. At least your review and Prasanna's comment reassures me it is not going to be a bad read.

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    1. A decent read. I skipped mentioning a few other things since they could well be spoilers.

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  3. Not easy to develop several characters and yet write an engrossing one. Have not read this but sounds interesting. Welcome back.

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    1. Quite readable, Alka! And thanks for the welcome.

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  4. Suresh ji ,as you would have understood by now, I was a back bencher and books scare me .. even now .. but I will tell you truly .. I love reading reviews given by you and then google about the books and authors.Just to keep up with the world . I Thank you for making life easy for a person like me :) Only reviews help me avoid looking out of place when the intellectuals talk :) .. at least I know what I am nodding my head at :)

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    1. Welcome fellow back-bencher :) Did you also take refuge in the back benches to catch up on your sleep? :) Now me, I only got scared off serious reading :)

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  5. good English is almost a rarity now, and i wonder how it gets past the edits in the first place! so for two things, i might pick it up, one for the narration from different pov's, that is something I have to learn, and the language itself.

    quite an honest review i must say!

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    1. A quest for insight may be infructuous on my part so I strive for honety at least :)

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  6. Based on this review, I am thinking of picking up this book for two reasons - Excellent English and Multiplicity of point-of-view. Now, are you sending me this book or want me to spend money on this? :)

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    1. Your spending money on it sounds better than my spending money on sending it across :)

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    2. What if I pay the courier charges? I am serious.

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    3. This Leo has already been promised Diwa.

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  7. I agree indeed.
    I also like to imagine situations from the book, including music effects.

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    1. That should be a fun way of enjoying a book

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  8. I have got "The Price You Pay" that I opted for from Indiblogger which is a good read too but I have a few pages to go still. I have read good reviews about this one. Perhaps, I will borrow it from one of you guys. The review is interesting!

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    1. Leo has booked this one from me :) You will be after him unless someone else has the book too :)

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  9. I get what you mean by the right narrative style being picked up to make the story full of impact and one that would stay with the reader. This multi person view is a style that I see many Authors pick up and I have always wondered if it works in every genre. Recently i came across it in a Chick Lit and a Murder Mystery. In the former, it worked fine because frankly it did not really matter (at least for me) about whose perspective was what in a light romance... but in the murder mystery, it did leave me confused at times and I felt the story was not done justice to.
    This review helped me put that confusion of mine in perspective.

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    1. To me, the tale you tell should decide the narrative style you pick. Seems to me that, now, you pick a narrative style as a USP and fit the tale to it. I am old-fashioned enough to think of that as cutting the person to suit the clothes :)

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