One Summer in Poleru by Nanda Rajanala – A Powerful Debut

One Summer in Poleru by Nanda Rajanala is one of the most fascinating novels published in India, it mingles up crime thriller and social message on corruption in one setting with a long cast of characters. Such novels aren’t a commonplace anymore. Kindle publishing and romance trend overshadowed the master storytelling that was prevalent in the era of authors like Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Narayan, Amitava Ghosh, Arvind Adiga, and few more names.

Rumours have that this novel resembles the charm of R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days. Could be! You may find similarities between Renu and Swami, both school children. However, Swami was totally into mischief, on the other hand Renu is matured, clever, and brave. She strives consistently to save her village school that has last vestiges of Chola dynasty and relics of ancient education system. As per the elders, she has no valid reasons to save it. It’s hardly visible to anyone that she is bonded with it. Children are sensitive and inquisitive; they love things and people and want that to stay with them forever. 

‘But Nanna…It is a good cause, and I don’t intend to create any problem for others. We just want to save the school if possible. That’s all…’

Oh…yes, it’s about saving one village school. But who are those wicked people that want to bring it down?

‘Sam, just call Giri. In the land of the corrupt, everyone is a victim. I need to do something before things get exposed and we all land in trouble.

Two excerpts made things quite clear. The story is broadly about stopping the demolition of school village by school children headed by Renu and her friends.

With time it became a cause and movement. It leaps the boundaries of village Poleru and gains prominence through social media. But the interesting part is that Renu learns a lot to adapt to new ways of silent protests. A seventh grade student learns computer, then social media like FB, and a hashtag system to spread her movement. She was prolific. However, at times too much meetings with her friends was slightly off putting. Still the novel balances the show. Second good lead character is Inspector Prasad. He was superb with this murder investigation – honest and holistic.

The entire plot is built behind saving a school or say destructing that school by people who scam the land deals. The roles and motives behind the curtains were eye-raising, shocking, and disturbing.

Often demolishing an old building for infrastructure projects is common but Renu’s pledge to save her school makes this novel a different likeable story. The overall plot looked simple but it isn’t. Things are not what they looked from distance.

Our View on the Cover:

What does its cover page depict? Probably, at the first sight a setting of some unhurried undefiled place such as peace and quiet of the countryside, like we used to see in R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days. Indeed, the cover designer was settled in the essence of the Poleru, the fictional backdrop. Nothing gaudy…nor showing off – the cover is a placid yet heart-warming scenery. Coconut trees, spirals of a temple, roof tiles and a few students under it…oh it’s a school in some South India. Lovely! Amazing cover work!

Our View on the Characters:

With children in the limelight in a series story, the novel is bound to be funny, witty, and sarcastic. Remember the children characters like Renu, two boys, Ganesh, Swati, Mary were lighthearted and juvenile even though they tried to finish chores that elders dreaded. The novel had a healthy share of characters from all walks of life such as family, school kids, politics, and government officers; however, lack of school teachers was surprising. Shekhar was one, but, he was on the wrong side.

Renu, the school kid, and inspector Prasad outshines others…auxiliary ones. They both shared the story in good proportion, with their roles and responsibilities. Antagonists like Giri, Kumar, VR, Samual were natural to their attitude. However, they portrayed misdeeds that inevitably come with power and influence and money.

Nanda did a fantastic job of balancing the novel from all arteries. Chances are that you may like the novel all the more because of its serious comic representation of the characters.

Final Verdict:

Well-written, vivid, rich with characters, descriptive setting, beautiful black & white illustrations pull you in the story. A debut should be like this one. Nanda is a talented promising author from India. He shouldn’t be taking breaks for stories. He will be honoured if more novels poured in, with properly spaced out.

On the whole, this is a very interesting book which will utterly keep the readers occupied until they read the last word of the book. Nanda is one spectacular author who knows how to deliver the story in a manner in which it will be enjoyed by the readers. It’s totally engaging and thrilling.

TitleOne Summer in Poleru
Edition Reviewed2022
AuthorNanda Rajanala
The Asian Review Rating8.5 out of 10

Categories: Reviews

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