Skip to main content

Book Review - Visions of a Summer Past by Avishek Gupta




“Visions of a Summer Past” is the debut novel of Avishek Gupta. I have read Avishek’s short stories in the past and started reading his debut novel with certain expectations. The good news is that, his writing exceeds all my expectations.

The story chronicles the journey of a family across five generations, starting in the 40’s with the Partition as backdrop and ending in this decade. Selecting this as the premise of one’s debut novel, in itself, proves that Avishek is a gutsy author. When your canvas is so wide and varied, you need to not only develop characters that are true to the times and spaces they inhabit, but you also sign up for exploring the changing social, political and cultural milieu of a nation or nations as your story traverses through time. And this is where Avishek excels.

In his novel, you see the gradual progression of means of livelihood – farmers and landlords, independent practitioners of law, entrepreneurs, public servants, and practitioners of cutting-edge technology in a multinational corporation. He deftly portrays the challenging circumstances where his characters find themselves in all these professions through the ages – a city burning in the wake of partition forcing the landlord to abandon his property and heading to a land unknown, labour unrest destroying a successful pharmaceutical business, and conspiracies in the modern corporate.

You see the nature of political protests changing as you move in time and space – from Swadesis to Naxalites to Fidayeens.

Avishek’s writing prowess also shines through the vivid visuals and imagery he creates with an eye for details, taking the reader through Dhaka, Kolkata and Oxford of yore to the modern-day Manhattan, Somersville and San Francisco. Avishek is a highly imaginative and articulate writer – his writing gives the impression that he knows the lanes and by-lanes of all these cities like the back of his hand, which is a highly admirable quality for an author.

Avishek builds memorable characters, seeped in Bangaliyana. You realize that through changing circumstances across five generations in a family, what remains constant is love, attachment to the family, and the strength of one’s values. The love stories are beautifully handled. There are situations that tug at your heartstrings, like the pet dogs chasing the family leaving the village in Dhaka for an unknown land never to return, or, the police brutally killing a Naxalite on the cricket pitch inside a university.

The best part of the novel, which also forms the crux of the story, is an element of mystery and magic realism that spans the five generations of the family, and I will not give away spoilers, because the brilliant concept and the equally brilliant writing should be best left for the reader to savor. It takes you by surprise, and then draws you in, as the non-linear writing goes back and forth in time.
Avishek has set a bar very high for himself with his debut novel. I am now waiting eagerly to find out what he has in store next. I expect nothing less than ‘magic’.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review - Poems by Subhadip Mukherjee

Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Reading the poetry of Subhadip Mukherjee in his book ‘ছেঁড়াচিন্তারScribbles’ (Offtrack Publishers, co-authored by Dr. Kausik Ghosh), I am convinced that he is bleeding. And that’s good news.
Subhadip is a nagorik kobiyal. His poems hold mirror to the stifling urban life with its rat race, with its mindless pursuit of  materialistic ambitions, and with its consumerism.
নাগরিকব্যস্ততানানাজটিলতা... দাশুবারবারকিস্তিমাত
He mocks the same judgemental urban society right in his introduction when he says:
যদিতাকেচিনেথাকো যদিতাকেজেনেথাকো Boss, বেশী .মিশোনাতারসাথে সামান্যনেশাহবে... তুমিও "খারাপ" হবে দেরিহবেরোজরাত্তিরে
Subhadip’s poems paint love in its myriad hues – from extreme euphoria to brooding despondency. Subhadip depicts the unadulterated purity of love when he says:
তুইক্লাসনাইনৈরখাতারপাতায়বুকবুক

Book Review - Museum of Memories: A soulful journey of many lives, through many eras and across many worlds

Amrita Mukherjee’s book ‘Museum of Memories’ (http://www.amazon.in/dp/9385854194/) is a collection of 13 short stories which, as the blurb suggests, are tales inspired by reality.
Reading through the stories, you find yourself looking into a kaleidoscope of emotions and Amrita, with her lucid language and superior storytelling skills, draws you into a world inhabited by characters you have grown up with, characters you run into everyday, and the person you look at every time you stand in front of the mirror.
In terms of structure, these are short stories that speak volumes and mostly end unpredictably. One can breeze through the book from cover to cover. However, they leave you with images, questions and thoughts to reflect upon long after the last page has been turned.
How do we embrace those close to us before they turn into memories? How does a woman who sells her womb for a price then grapple not just with the empty womb but an empty heart? What does destiny have in store for a sex…

What does the Indian media have to say about In the Shadows of Death

In the Shadows of Death completes 5 months and I thought it would be worthwhile to summarize the media mentions for my work.

I can't thank enough the respected reviewers who have been insightful, looking beyond the obvious elements of thrill and suspense and commenting on the dynamics of human relationships in contemporary urban India that I made humble efforts to portray through my work.

The media response has been truly inspirational, and I hope as I chase my dreams, you will be with me in my journey, motivating me, inspiring me, and helping me with your feedback so that I can further hone my craft.

The Times of India: Set in the city of Kolkata, "In The Shadows of Death: A Detective Agni Mitra Thriller" is a fast paced potboiler which hooks you and keeps you glued to the plot from the very beginning. Full report: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/books/features/Book-review-In-The-Shadows-of-Death/articleshow/51455322.cms
The Hindu (1): With an almost Freudian u…