Monday, 18 April 2016

"The Honest Season: by Kota Neelima

A political drama, to be honest, was never my forte, and so I had been a little apprehensive while I was unwrapping the courier package this weekend. But there’s always a first time, I tried to boost up my morale, and thus I started. And then, I simple could not keep it down until 4 a.m. in the morning, which is when I finally turned its last page.

The book opened with a characteristic government officer, like the ones we see or imagine all the time all around us. However and soon enough, the story had started to take its twists and turns.

Few books have it in them to delve both into social arenas as well as into individual character portrayals as well as this one does. Take for example, what it says about how political journalism works. Delving into the overall industry of journalism in which the print media had lately suffered an almost untimely demise due to the uproar of online reporting, it first impresses us with the easy pointer that in the age of social media hashtags and 24*7 national news coverage, print media has little anymore to submit in the world of factual reporting. It is obsolete by the time it is out of press next morning. And then, to re-invent themselves and maintain relevance, what they now thought to offer, the only thing that can still save the boat, is an alternate kind: the know-journalism. Yes, doesn't it strike a cord right away with what we see and with what we read all the time? It establishes its case, and well.

But then, soon from there, the narration changed its gears to now explore into the life and mind of the lady who knows it all, the real know-journalist. The story promises to be gripping, and more than that, her character sketch, which promises to be a mystery and mystifies throughout the plot with systemic flashbacks into her diary journals and her rather complex, inward thought processes. Like, if you would, she doesn't take death for an escape but fr a destiny, and how she knows the difference of the two! And before you know, you the reader is engrossed into what would unfold next, and next.

How are decisions made in our democracy, how does it really work? Why do States break themselves, and how; but much more importantly, who benefits, who sells, who pains and who gains? How are business houses worked with, how are equipment bought out? And, more than all of that, how do journalism work? What do they feed us, what do we see, taste, feed upon? Where do our interests figure out, in our democracy? A sneak-peak into all these are more, albeit in what it customarily calls an art of fiction without real references.

And then, Mira Mouli. The girl who 'knows' it all, and yet the only way she can come out of it is by going through all of it, at once. The only way she can come back in life is through death, perhaps. She risks it all, and how.

The book overwhelms with its rather matter of fact, constrained tone. Yet, if I were to give a hard look at what could improve, I'd say two things:

- The characters seemed to speak the same language, with the same suaveness that is otherwise not so common. Especially the two male leads become all too identical as we reach towards the last part of the novel. I wish they were distinct as they had earlier promised to.

- The mystic mystery of Mira Mouli and her life, that can only be deciphered in poetic justice, seemed to lose its charm as she started to now believe in everything others said, and how everything was made to appear before her in alternate lights of good and evil. I would have loved to believe that she was not one who could be fooled.

Having said that, this is indeed a book that is both relevant and philosophical, one that is both inward as well as topical. It becomes a trap in which you, the reader, do not find your own way easy - it toys with your trust on the characters, it misleads you, let's you down and picks you up at its own whims. But then, the journey is worth it, and so is the read. "The Honest Season" by Kota Neelima relates and connects like only few novels that I have read from authors of recent times. 

I give it a 4+ on a scale of 5.

Thank you for the opportunity to review this book!