Sunday, 6 March 2016

Review: Don't Let Him Know by Sandip Roy.


Book: Don't Let Him Know

Author: Sandip Roy

Pages: 257

Read On: Hardback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: In a boxy apartment building in an Illinois university town, Romola Mitra, a newly arrived young bride, anxiously awaits her first letter from home in India. When she accidentally opens the wrong letter, it changes her life. Decades later, her son Amit finds that letter and thinks he has discovered his mother's secret. But secrets have their own secrets sometimes.

Amit does not know that Avinash, his dependable and devoted father, has been timidly visiting gay chat rooms, driven by the lifelong desires he never allowed himself to indulge. Avinash, for his part, doesn't understand what his dutiful wife gave up in marrying him -- the memories of romance she keeps tucked away.

Growing up in Calcutta, in a house bustling with feisty grandmothers, Amit has been shielded from his parents' secrets. Now he's a successful computer engineer, settled in San Franscisco yet torn between his new life and his duties to the one he left behind.

Moving from adolescent rooftop games to adult encounters in gay bars, from hair salons in Calcutta to McDonald's drive-thrus in California, Don't Let Him Know is an unforgettable story about family and the sacrifices we make for those we love. Tender, funny, and beautifully told, it marks the arrival of a resonant new voice.

General Thoughts: I first came across this book a few months ago while browsing in a bookshop and loved the sound of this book. I didn't pick it up then because it was like 599 bucks and I wanted to wait and maybe get it online or on a later date. 

I got it last month and read it pretty much immediately. This was a quick and really engaging read. 

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing was really lovely. Smooth and engaging and really evocative of the worlds it takes us into. 

2. Through the course of this book we really get to know these people, all of them- Avinash, Romola and Amit. We get to spend time with them and find out their deep desires and their dreams and their secrets. The writer does a fantastic job of breathing life into these people. 

3. Set in Calcutta, Illinois and San Francisco, this book takes you places in more ways that one. These places and these settings are an integral part of the stories and play significant characters in a way. 

4. Books set in Calcutta are pretty much my favourite books to read and I love reading about one of my favourite cities. 

5. The Boroma, Amit's great-grandmother was hands down my favourite person in this book and the chapter with her in it was just lovely. It broke my heart. I was a sobbing mess by the end of it and I adored it! I love grandmas. And Bengali thammas are my favourite. 

6. Truth be told, this isn't really a novel in the strictest sense. This is more a collection of connected short stories and I am loving short-stories. I am totally into short-stories since the last few months and even though this is not novel and not what I was expecting I still enjoyed this format of story-telling. 

7. I loved that these stories were not linear and we jump across time periods and I liked that. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

I really loved this book. I enjoyed the time I spent with it and I adored it. 
But there were some things that did irk me.. 

1. Amit was the worst. I HATED him. Ugh! I wanted to reach inside this book and punch him in the face. Every chapter that was from his perspective I kinda grimaced but I of course, read it but I just didn't like it. He is awful. Selfish. Spoilt. Ungrateful. Wimpy. He is a prick. I really didn't like him. 

2. The other thing that I slightly didn't like was the time periods were very vague and it was left entirely up to the reader to deduce the year in which every story is set. This might be a challenge to some and especially to non-Indian readers. 

3. Like I said, I adore short-stories and so I didn't mind that this was not what I thought it would be- a novel. But, BUT...not everyone loves short-stories, in fact some people actively dislike this format of story-telling. So I can't imagine them being too pleased about buying a novel and discovering it's short-stories. Nowhere on the dust jacket does it say anything about inter-connected short-stories. This is more a book design fail. 

Rating: 4/5 

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it. It is one the best things I've read in 2016 so far. 

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