Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: The Last Song of Dusk

Book: The last song of Dusk
Author: Siddharth Danvant Shanghvi
My Rating: 4 Stars
Review: A wildly entertaining award winning novel by a very talented young writer.

The last song of dusk, Siddharth Danvant Shanghvi’s debut novel, is set in 1920s India. When published, the book took the literary world by a storm winning the Betty Trask Award in the UK, the Premio Grinzane Cavour in Italy, and was nominated for the IMPAC Prize. Much to the author’s discontent, the book is usually categorized as magical realism and he is compared to the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie. Lofty comparisons for a debut author, I must say; especially when he was just 22 years old when the book was published.

When a book comes with so much acclaim and so much hype, it’s hard to not have expectations before you’ve read even a single word.

The last song of dusk is a love story - a complicated love story that dwells in the “happily ever after” stage of a fairy tale. Why references to a fairy tale here you might ask. I don’t do it without reason. This story starts with Anuradha, a beautiful young bride with a haunting voice that even stops the moon, traveling to Bombay to marry Vardhaman, a young smart doctor known for his good looks and the number of women feigning illness just to have him treat them. To add to the fairy tale like quality of the book, Vardhaman even has a wicked step mother! Anuradha and Vardhaman get married despite minor obstacles and even have a beautiful son, Mohan who is a musical prodigy.

But instead of ending the story with a “and they happily ever after”, Siddharth Shanghvi uses this tale as just a prologue to his novel where he delves in to the complicated web of emotions that Anuradha and Vardhaman weave when their son dies suddenly. They move to a beautiful yet haunted house that has a fascinating history and a will of its own. At the core of the book is a character called Nandini. Nandini is a 14 year old promiscuous orphan that enchants Anuradha and comes to lives with her. She is a glamorous, devious, talented, cunning painter who charms her way in to people’s hearts and breaks them easily without rhyme or reason. For me, Nandini was the most memorable character in the book. It’s hard to dislike her. She has a wild streak that is entertaining and at the same time midly scary!

In this book, Siddharth Shanghvi comes across as an amateur author - one with immense talent but a little too willing to please. The central plot of the story is very original and holds your attention all the way through. There are a lot of deviations from the main story line. Some of the deviations are apt while some seem to dilute the central theme.

He has a beautiful way with words and there’s no scarcity for adjectives in the book. Most of the descriptions are vivid and easily help in painting the right picture in you read along; but some seem forced and superfluous.  

The last song of dusk is definitely an entertaining read.
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1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I'm wondering if this might be too descriptive for me. I'd still like to give it a go.