This post is part of the blog tour for the book. Thanks to Random Things Tours and HopeRoad Publishing for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
We meet Rudrani Rana on her way to Jaipur Literature Festival, carrying two bags with her, one of which contains a precious manuscript of her as yet unsubmitted novel that she’s never quite managed to bring herself to let go of. Also on the train is a promising young writer named Anura who is scheduled to talk at the festival. Once in the hustle and bustle of the festival itself we meet an array of other characters at various points in their creative journeys, and all harbouring secrets ranging from affairs to burglary, or poison pen letters in the case of Rudrani.
Gokhale’s decision to give Rudrani a spiteful side is an interesting one. Many readers will relate to her struggles with writing and editing her novel, of a reluctance to put her life’s work in the hands of strangers, yet her cruelty when hiding behind a pen and paper causes us to question her morals. We see the devastating effect her little notes can cause their recipients and in snippets from her childhood see where her unpleasant habit began, how she's always enjoyed tripping others up to reveal their weaknesses. On the first day of the festival she meets Anirban while he is people watching, capturing likenesses in drawing. They feel an instant affinity to each other, both obscuring parts of their creative outputs from the world. He is able to see the pain at the root of her behaviour and through his eyes we’re able to see a softer side to her.
From their first introduction we get a good sense of where the characters are coming from and what they’re like, although Gokhale throws in some curveballs to challenge assumptions. Each story arc is interesting but I did find myself getting a bit lost from time to time trying to keep up with who everyone was. Rudrani is at the centre of the novel but is absent for large parts of it. Each character’s story subtly interacts with another, and by the end we see the profound effect that the interactions and chance encounters have had on all their lives.
This is an enjoyable book that brings to life the colour and energy of the famous Jaipur Literature Festival which might just be the cure we need to the absence of in-person events over the past year.