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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Love And Death In the Middle Kingdom by Nalini Rajan

Title: Love And Death In The Middle Kingdom
Author:  Nalini Rajan
Category: Fiction 
Publisher:Alchemy Publishers (2013)
Date:  2013
Price: Rs.195

 Snapshot:  This book is about a story that is found in the documents (a sort of entire diary) of an individual living in Sixteenth century Vijaynagara. The story is something that will shatter many assumptions and beliefs that we have about ancient times, our ancestors , their thoughts and the rigidness of the society. The author completes the plot beautifully by merging two halves that make the whole, in the end.

The Review:  I was immensely drawn to the coverpage of this book and couldn't keep my hands off it. I finished the book in five hours straight! That is what I calll a truly engaging book from outside -in.
I could connect with the book right from the first page where the lead protagonist is a PhD student Nitya and her life is entangled, she has given up everything for her research in History, and knows everything about one person "her mentor" (this is the sort of life every PhD student in this country has, trust me !)

Moving further, the professor entrusts her with a mission to visit his ex-star student Sharat, who is the cool character, cool enough to leave academia after a hard earned doctorate, and takes up a job at LIC in small place called Honavar in Karnataka so that he could write novels instead. (Ah! I very well associated with that ex-favourite students professors tend to have, and one can say nothing more than "yes" when these are mentioned). Moving on, this is the place where the ancient documents are discovered. Nitya reaches there, examines the scanned copies and begins reading the translated version in English and we get to the story of Devadatta, a royal courtier in sixteenth century Vijayanagara. 
He is a man from a cultural family. A Kshatriya, responsible for law and order in the kingdom. His diary contains details about life in those times, customs, beliefs and the mindset of people during times when different people of varied cultures landed in India as trade on coasts prospered. The Amalgamation was not only in trade, it was in food, clothing, architecture but where humanity has always failed hearts. Devadatta befriends two foreigners visiting the kingdom for trade, one is a Persian and the other a Portuguese.  After the Portuguese guy leaves , the other two bong very close and the society at that time being ultra-orthodox doesnt appreciate such friendships. Will it survive? There are many hidden secrets in the story Its is basically an insight about what we presume would be and what really was the mind set then. The book raises a very important question "Will humanity ever be the supreme characterization of a human being or we will fight wars over cast, creed and religion and ruin lives?".  On the lighter front something brews in the present between Nitya and Sharat, but both have an overpowering past, will they be able to overcome it? Read to know more.

What I loved the most was the way the author plotted the story in two parts and just when you think you will never know about Devdatta's life after this point, she plays the Ace and wins the readers heart. 

The Review:
Positives: An engaging story about the times when races mingled after man evolved, forgetting that he had the same origin. The language is simple, the story moves at a good pace. The plots were well arranged.
Negatives: The writing could have been more crisp and the editing more tight. 

The Verdict: A great read if you are a fan of history and love to think more about the ground morales of "being human". 3. 5 stars on 5. I shall certainly love to read the other two books by the author.

About the Author:
Nalini Rajan is Dean of Studies and Professor, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. She has a doctorate in social communication from the Catholic University in Louvin, Belgium. Nalini has travelled widely and held postdoctoral fellowships in the US (New York) and UK (Oxford and Edinburgh). Her first novel The Pangolin's Tale was longlisted for the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize. Love and Death in the Middle Kingdom is her third work of fiction.


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