Writing a novel on human emotions is a feat in itself. Not all modern authors from India can do that, even if they do, they come up with lackluster novels. I have been reading Saurav Dutt since quite a time. He is a terrific writer but sadly slightly underrated for his books. I last read his ‘Dear Mr Bachchan – A Bollywood Novel’. The way he gets under the skin of characters and ambience is a sheer juice to enjoy. He builds tempo and then outpaces the core theme of the novel.
Lately, I read ‘The Winter Song’. A new novel by him, released only on Kindle! This is a terrific novel built around flimsy human relations and idiosyncrasies. It features a man named John Perera from Shimla. He sets on a journey from Shimla to the Spiti Valley to a temple where his deceased wife once asked for a genuine and good husband. To honour her wish that he would do something big for her, he sets off on a journey in the icy cold weather. The novel is not about just a plain journey; rather it is a journey of life that reflects while he is on the move. He meets many people on the road, some dissuades him, a few accompanies him, and some confounds him. The novel deals with spirituality, human psychic, ordeals, failed relationships, father-son bond, and husband-wife understanding. All this is covered by sweeps and back stories. I could not distinguish as where the current situation meets the back story and comes out smoothly. The narration is simply superb and sublime.
Talking a little more about the story line, I would say John grips the plot entirely. His journey reflects his choices and actions of past. He took the journey of pilgrimage to pay a sort of tribute to his wife Asima whom he loved deeply, because she chose him over religion and society. Their life was purely based on love. However, with time love did not stay the way it had begun. Jimmy – their son – brings too much sub plots and antagonism in the story. John hated him for his indulgence into drug consumption and business – in short he wasted whatever the couple could make for him. Yet inside as the journey chugs ahead, John gets a hunch that his son was killed by some drug mafia or peddler. While on the journey, he not only tries to find answers about his life and faith but also digs hard to find killers of his son but it didn’t get ossified till the end.
Our View on the Cover:
It is an impressive yet compelling cover with an absolute winter feel. Though the figure and face are in shadows, the overall combination of blue and yellowish hue in the backdrop makes the cover page impactful. From the cover page, I could make out that novel is truly about a man’s journey in the winter weather.
John and a few are the only visible characters. Asima and Jimmy are always there in the mind of John – they are like banter in the backdrop. John is a protagonist and according to his experiences, there are many antagonists from time to time, as they couldn’t conform to his set principles or protocols of life.
When John was out on a journey, there are some depressing characters as well like saints who sell hashish, Sita – the girl from Sri Lanka who has difficult time forgetting his disloyal boyfriend, and some drug mafias, that old man who dies due to cancer while sleeping. In all the limelight, John is the lead character. Most of the sweeps and back stories are associated with him. He is flawed and strong.
If you can remember Saurav Dutt other than his novels, well then it would be his brilliant writing style. He is a class in himself. You can pick up any of his novels – you will not be disappointed with respect to writing, engagement, grammar, and everything. He sounds like a perfect author. Truly holds a genuine flair for penning down novels. In this novel, the stunning description of nature keeps him on a different league.
“Light fell early around him around Spiti Valley in this part of India that felt untouched by time, untroubled by the threads of modern politicking and historical comport. The tracks wound around knife edge corners and mountains rose majestically around him, blinking with the lights of stark homes and monasteries poised high above sea level.”
Evidently, class is visible. On the cons side, he is tough to read at time with not-so-commonly used vocabulary.
Who can Read:
This isn’t for lily-levered guys. The novel is serious with its tone and moves with afterlife melancholic drama. Putting it in other words, it is emotionally draining. Those who have seen loss in the life and miss their loved ones may resonate well with it. For young and bright people, this is going to be a tough novel.
Our Final Verdict:
A brilliantly written piece of literature, the Winter Song by Saurav Dutt qualifies for a classical novel. Just 170 pages, yet it feels like a thick book on human frailty. The novel is abundant with themes like death, pilgrimage, ironies of life, cultural and heritage overlapping shocks. However, it also tells all of us that don’t waste a life in drugs.
|Title||The Winter Song|
|The Asian Review Rating||8.5 out of 10|