'Swallowing the Sun' book review: A remarkable feat in the art of storytelling

Swallowing the Sun stands out for its interesting cast of characters, who are marvelous in their own way; each representing a trait and getting a significant pride of place in the complex plot woven together intelligently.

At the centre of the tale is Malati, the eternal strongwoman who becomes an able sutradhar, trying to defy age-old patriarchy with courage, conviction and resolve to stand for her own rights. She heralds the season of change by stating her own gallant thought process in the opening passage of the novel itself, which is highly symbolic with its image of the two-sided drum and the intense beat of the festive dhol tasha. Clearly, it is a becoming prelude to the wrestling match between the “unacceptable” norms of society and the quest for individual freedom.

The story marches forward meandering through twists and turns, and the brilliant incorporation of facts speaks volumes about the razor sharp memory of the diplomat-turned-author coupled with her fact-finding research and ability.

The feminist approach to various facets of life places it closer to reality and makes it easier to deal with human experiences like love, death, failure, success and ultimately acceptance/redemption. Malati may as well represent the writer herself and her successful life, creating an illuminating path to achieve the seemingly impossible.

The unusual epigraph of abhang (devotional verse) of Muktabai, the 13th-century saint from Maharashtra from which Swallowing the Sun, borrows its title, states the theme of the novel at the outset, i.e. daring to attain the unattainable. It reminds one of Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea where the indomitable spirit of human adventure is pitted against the formidable forces of nature. Swallowing the Sun, in a similar manner, makes the journey of humankind fighting a brave battle forward fascinating and memorable.

Swallowing the Sun

By: Lakshmi Murdeshwar Puri

Publisher: Aleph

Pages: 424

Price: Rs 899

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