In my recent review of Jahnavi Barua’s Rebirth I quoted the following line: “No, I will not buy a book today. I will try and live in my life instead”. I really wanted, though, to quote the entire preceding paragraph, but it didn’t really suit the direction of my review. And so, instead, I’m posting it today.
The protagonist, Kaberi, is in a bookshop (as you will have guessed):
I begin with the As and work my way down the bookshelves. I stop at C; I have not read Disgrace yet and would have liked to have browsed through it but somehow today my heart is not in it. Still, I wander down the aisle looking at the familiar names; I am compelled to stop at K, Kawabata. I caress the spine of the book as if stroking the hand of an old and beloved friend. I cannot forget the girl in his book, The sound of the mountain. Her relationship with her father-in-law haunts me; is it possible that there can be only friendship between a man and a woman unrelated by blood? I had been so deeply unsettled by the book when I first read it; your father had only laughed. He said I had lived so little in the real world that the fictional appeared so significant to me.
I love this paragraph for so many reasons. Let me count the ways! No, let’s not be quite so mechanical but I will say that I like it for personal and structural reasons. Personal because I’ve read and loved the two books she describes, and because I can relate to her need to caress a loved book and her being unsettled by a great book. And structural because this paragraph contains several clues to character and even plot in the book … but I won’t give those away (beyond of course what you’ve already gleaned from this piece of text itself).