For long I have stopped taking books for reviews. But now and then I take up one if someone I am well acquainted with has written a book and wants me to review it for them. So here comes my review of the book “Kissing Circles.” by Nitin Tewari. I picked up the Kindle copy . So I can’t comment on the cover design, paper texture and other production values. Therefore I will straight away get on to the story.
My overall impression about this book I would say was quite positive. I found this book much better than many of the popular Indian best sellers published by the big publishing houses while catering to more or less the same audience. Why I found it so, we will get there presently and also have a look at some of the things that could have greatly improved the book.
The overall story line was quite sound. The theme of two North Indian boys going to Kerala to join as trainees at an IT company and through their association with a local colleague, getting involved in a high Adrenalin drama pertaining to a local tradition is quite an interesting theme. The author has done a good job taking us through the characters of the two North Indian boys, their Keralite colleague and the protagonist of the local drama – the captain of one of the boat teams for the annual race. He displays very good understanding of the characters of his protagonists and brings out their desires, aspirations and thoughts very well. The drama builds up nicely from around a third of the book and manages to keep the reader hooked.
The other strong element of the book is the research the author has done on the local culture and traditions. We get to learn the history of the local people, their traditions, the origins and the social milieu. So if nothing, somebody who has read this book would have learnt something useful about Kerala.
The language in the book is decent but quite inconsistent. At some places, it looks simple and in others it looks more refined. I am not sure if this has to do with the author’s innovative approach of having each chapter told from a different point of view - first person narrative of the main characters, omniscient third person point of view, third person object on the wall narrative and also actual narratives by Gods and odd objects. Talking of this narrative approach itself, while I appreciate the author’s attempt to innovate, this did not work out so strongly. There was no obvious reason why this form of narrative had to be chosen from a storytelling perspective except for the sake of sheer novelty. And the writing by itself did not stand out so differently between the various narratives for the reader to be able to recognize immediately who is narrating without seeing the chapter title.
The book title "Kissing Circles" was something I really liked. It is really intriguing and has the reader thinking.The explanation for this that comes around mid way through the book and the way author links it at a physical and metaphorical level was interesting. I would have probably liked to see more of the kissing circle idea thread through the story.
The starting was a bit slow and many readers may be tempted to put off the book at this stage itself. While reading about the life of trainee engineers in a software company brought back some old memories for me, I did not find these chapters particularly interesting. Nor was I too keen to learn about the competitive landscape in the software industry and tit bits about the software industry keep popping up regularly throughout the story. If the author had started in the middle with the boat races coming in the first chapter itself, things might have been much more interesting.
The book has no strong female characters and might feel a bit misogynistic in the overall tone, especially in the sections narrated by the two north Indian boys. But then that is exactly how the mindset of young Indian engineering graduates tends to be. I can vouch for that having been through that phase. So it can be justified as a realistic portrayal of the characters he has made the protagonists of his story.
In terms of plot and narrative, I feel he could have done a much better job in the sequencing of events, blending exposition with the story line, deciding between realism and fantasy, choosing which events to highlight and which to push to the background etc. A strong developmental editor would have really helped in all these elements and added much value.
Overall a light breezy read that I would recommend to most people. If someone doesn't find the initial few pages interesting, I would suggest to skim through and hang on till at least till the boat races make their appearance.
The book can be purchased here on Amazon.