They say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve never found the saying more precise than with Gautam’s debut publication, Rafflesia, the Banished Princess. What I thought to be a sort of modern fantasy symbolizing life, turned out to be the story of a kid, Apoorva Sharma, lovingly called Appu, his journey of life from the small town of Guwahati, Assam to Leeuwarden, Netherlands.
My review: Good things first
Appu is the prominent protagonist of the story revolves around him. He is a kid who finds nature more attractive than anything. From the very first chapter, we get acquainted with the nuances of his persona; contemplative, introspective, naive and an introvert. These traits accompany him as he grows up and as an adult also, he fails to conform with or confide in anyone, even to his best friend since childhood, Rahul. The story, though essentially is of Appu, we come to know of him and his life chiefly from the perspectives of other characters. It is, as if, someone is narrating, with a neutral point of view, the life of Apoorva Sharma.
The main storyline is thus quite simple. But like me, one who has grown up in the same time-frame portrayed in the story could relate to it easily. Appu’s parents, Aabir and Trina, their mediocre way of life and related problems, their worries and joys, all has been made realistic and, occasionally I did find whiffs of nostalgia hovering over as I turned the pages.
Appu’s character apparently appears to be simple, but, somewhere deep within, he keeps on holding up his emotions. Throughout his life, he has been liked by a lot of people, but seldom able to make any friend except Rahul and Pinky, his friend in the Little Point school who gifted him the book, Rafflesia, the Banished Princess, the book which he holds to his heart, literally and figuratively.
The characterization of Appu, Misha, Sujata, Trina and Rahul are worth mentioning. In all of them, the author has probed deep into to make them tangible to the readers. Especially, a person like Appu is a kind of his own, rarely found and more rarely understood by others. A gossamer of emotional webs plays in his mind always, he loves to live within the encasement of those webs, delicate looking yet difficult to pass through. His naïveté puts him in a morass of confusion and chaos, happiness being fugacious in his life. There is a melancholic melody in Appu’s characterization, and, I liked that most.
The not-so-good things
Gautam has delineated the story with a laid back attitude. He takes every incident in stride be it related to the main story or not. A motley of characters has thronged the book making it voluminous (396 pages). And, each and every character has a story of its own which at times, seems monotonous, dragging and absolutely unnecessary. The book could have easily curated some of those ‘character stories’. It would have made it a more interesting and compact read.
There are quite a number of grammatical errors along with poor editing. Even there are typesetting errors at places making the things incomprehensible and, you have to re-read the whole paragraph arranging it accordingly to get the meaning.
In spite of the above-mentioned not-so-good things, I would like to recommend the book to those who like a breezy read on a Sunday evening or while enjoying a quiet holiday in the midst of nature. The ambience alluded will work for the book.
The ending is not concrete and leaves room for reader’s imagination. But the last two lines of the epilogue are suggestive enough when you compare them to the last few lines of the prologue. There lies the finesse of Gautam’s writing. After all, “the road to freedom is bordered with sunflowers.”
From my side. it’s 3.5/5
‘I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.’