Title: Crossed & Knotted (India's First Composite Novel)
Edited by : Sutapa Basu
Price: Rs. 250
India finally has a composite novel to its credit thanks to the nascent publishing house called Readomania which this year launched “Crossed &Knotted”. To begin with a composite novel is one where multiple writers together write a story complete in itself however the combination of chapters is a new story altogether completing one full circle. The interesting yet challenging part in the exercise if for the writers to begin where the former left, add the ingredients of their imagination but justify the plot and bring it to a full circle in the end. The exercise needs immense co-ordination and is sometimes an impossible feat to achieve, a reason the task had never been attempted so far.
The story "Crossed & Knotted" was not a complete random flow of events but built on a pre-decided exoskeleton. The writers then were allowed to set their imaginations flow to explore into the lanes nearby, the lands far off.
It all begins with a simple man Sudip, who is madly attracted to Megha, a complete contrast to his personality. She being everything he wasn't, bold, confident and sure. Though she didn't fit the mold of the perfect "daughter-in'law" for his family, against every resistance, he marries her. The rosy picture collapses there as she discards her cover, only to reveal her true character: mean, proud and selfish. He is unhappy, his parents are ill-treated everyday but in the midst of all that they have a daughter, Shivi. Her presence makes him a little happy, but is the happiness truly for him? As Megha's tyranny continues, each day the sufferings of his parents worsen. She just takes over everything that is Sudip’s, his property and his soul. This continues till one day when she dies leaving questions behind. This first chapter by Sutapa Basu, sets a perfect essence for the novel from where the water is only murkier.
The second story begins with personally what is my favorite part in the entire book "The Diary of Joseph Varghese". Shivi, Sudip’s daugher finds this diary, only to be hooked to it, for the lead Joseph Varghese is a man who visits a graveyard of his beloved, Lily. The diary has irregular entries with moments from the point their love began to his loneliness after her. When Shivi finds herself attracted to James, he discovers this diary only to enter later in it that he found true love again and hope he won’t have to do the same thing again. The confusion around "Who is Joseph Varghese?" "How did Lily die?" keeps one hooked to the book throughout. Ayan Pal's formation of this character is truly the flavor the entire book, the reader keeps craving for.
Sanchita Sen, the writer of the next story goes onto another lane, an important filler to set base for the next chapter by Arvind Passey. He with a clever word play knits and cuts a world where we meet the creator of Joseph Varghese or do we? This story just adds to the former plot in making it more confusing yet increasing the amplitude of the readers curiosity at the same time. It doesn't stop there as the enxt writer in line, Mithun Mukherjee brilliantly crafts the next plot. He creates a fact or fiction debate around Lily and her existence. The story being open ended will just leave the reader debating with themselves, making one read further hoping for a clue. This is the most crossed and knotted story of the entire book.
One then travels in the search of truth, unanswered questions and unsolved mysteries, through the lands of Afghanistan, for that is where the writer Avanti Sopory takes us with the story of Catherine, a journalist friend of Sudip. The story of a woman fighting for education, children wanting to escape, isn't what you haven't heard of if you read stories set in the backdrop of these lanes. But these well written simple stories that wonder into what you think is wilderness, only to come back in a full circle is a commendable job speaking volumes of the crucial co-ordination and Bhaswar Mukherjee deserves the praise.
The next few chapters takes us through the lives of different characters, with the ingredients of love, trust, friendship, only to come back to Sudip's family. He is a happy man, lucky to have found love again. However, can past just vanish? Mysteries remain hidden? Or will there only be more to cover what happened?
I congratulate Readomania, the editor Sutapa Basu for the mammoth task of compilation, editing and most of all the writers for the co-ordination to successfully bring out a gripping story from an exercise that began as an experiment. They have exceeded beyond expectations of the reader in not just completing the circle but also making smaller interesting circles within the crosses and knots. The stories are written in a simple, easy to understand language and each writer does stand out with his or her own writing style without tempering with the tone of the book. This journey across lands may get one confused as with each story there is a new character, but the plot makes one going only to smile wickedly in the end with the clever endings in some or touching ones in another. The book will get you hooked right from the first story only to keep you judging which one is the best.
The book being the first in a composite novel category from India, despite being from a nascent publishing house, has set a high benchmark for anyone wanting to attempt such an exercise. One of the best books of 2015 undoubtedly and the most interesting one in recent times. A highly recommended read.
Rating : 4/5.
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