In the realm of the bizarre: Book review of Divya Dubey’s Turtle Dove
The stories in this collection are unusual in their choice of themes, touching upon a variety of subjects discomforting for polite society — incest, child sexual abuse, homosexuality, toxic friendships and relativesbooks Updated: Apr 04, 2017 19:37 IST
Short stories are harder to write. A novel gives the writer the luxury of time and space to build the narrative and let the characters grow on the reader. With short fiction, however, you get no such leeway. The connection must be made fast.
Most stories in this debut collection, Turtle Dove: A Collection of Bizarre Tales, succeed in holding the reader’s interest — despite cliched language and flat characters impeding the flow at times — and even pack in a twist or two that you may not see coming.
The “bizarre” tales of the title are unusual in their choice of themes, touching upon a variety of subjects discomforting for polite society — incest, child sexual abuse, homosexuality, toxic friendships and relatives. The author focuses on exploring the interiority of most of her characters, who are stuck or become trapped in unenviable situations and relations.
The plots are promising, the execution not so much. For instance, the story Arnab, which portrays the everyday cruelty inflicted on an effeminate boy by friends and (intentionally and unintentionally) family ends up reading like a sob story. As the story of a talented, creative person stifled by restrictions and expectations of gender, it had the potential to evoke great empathy in the reader. But the pretty, dreamy Arnab – who excels in Kathak, cooking and needlework (!) much to the horror of his abrasive, overbearing father – remains a victim and a gay stereotype.
Some stories such as The Science Wizard (a terrifying, confessional account of a whiz kid’s descent into an adulthood of crime and debauchery) and Naani (not all grandparents are loving or easy to get along with) stand out in the collection. The clash of opinions and perspectives between the granddaughter and grandmother is drawn out – over time – rather well. Others like Best Friend (one friend’s helplessness to save her weak-willed friend from a life of cyclical self-destruction) may not leave you dazzled with its structuring and prose, but it will make you reflect on how realistically it mirrors life.
Turtle Dove: A Collection of Bizarre Tales
By Divya Dubey
Price: Rs 199
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First Published: Apr 04, 2017 19:36 IST