Friday, 16 August 2019

Book Review: Friends from College by Devapriya Roy

Book: Friends from College

Author: Devapriya Roy

Pages: 241

Read: Paperback edition

Read in: Over 2 days

Publisher: Westland

Plot Summary: What happens when friends from college reunite after two decades, savouring the familiar streets, decaying mansions and timeless coffee houses of Calcutta—and the past catches up with them unbidden?

Written in the robust tradition of serialised fiction and published in The Telegraph over forty-two weeks, Friends from College is a love-letter to Calcutta of the nineties – the decade in which ‘Gen X’ grew up, made friends, became lovers, drifted apart, and sometimes left the city for good. Much like our protagonist, Charulata Ghosh, who now lives in London and goes by Lata (to her mother’s great annoyance). Waiting impatiently for her to come home is Aaduri Bagchi, BFF, lapsed books editor trying to make sense of the new listicle school of journalism.
Unaware of Lata’s return, her ex, star filmmaker Ronny Banerjee, is preparing to shoot his magnum opus. Until a family wedding throws them together, and sparks fly. Laughter follows, and heartbreak. And secrets tumble out of forgotten closets. 
Sunlit with hope and affection, this is a novel that quickly draws you into its evocative heart.

Things I Liked:

1. This book has several elements that instantly appealed to me- the 90s, the 90s in Calcutta, college friends, a reunion and old love! What is not to like? This book promised the warm and fuzzy feels of nostalgia and old love and that was just the perfect fix for a super-rainy and windy weekend! 

2. This book is told from several different perspectives, but it never feels disjointed or choppy. The story also jumps from Lata's college life in the late 90s to the present day, to recollections of her previous marriages sometimes in the 2000s and everything flows really seamlessly. Of the various 'voices' that we come across in this book, my favourites were Lata, her best friend- Aaduri, Ronny and Bobby Bansal (Ronny's jugadu assistant). 

3. This book is about friendships- duh!- and it reminds you of what a lovely thing old friendships are! The connection one has with ones school and college friends, who've been to your home and know your parents/ family and know you in a way that many people who come in later into your life don't get to know you, is so different from work friends and other friends that one makes in life. I loved how the book brought this out. I love the ease with which both Aaduri and Ronny wove in and out of Lata's home- chatting with her mom, teasing her maid, bonding with her cousins. That's how friendships were in the 90s, kids! 

4. I loved most characters in this book and they made the book such a warm and happy place to immerse into. Lata is wry, wary and tries really hard to keep herself closed off emotionally, but she is still warm and sweet and I really enjoyed reading of her friendship with little Pixie. Ronny is sweet. I did not find him sexy (as a character) but I am sure his charm, wit and wordplay will find many fans. Aaduri was my favourite- she speaks her mind, is kick-ass at her job and she has such a cute love story! Also, the various characters in Lata's family were really likeable and real-ish. I mean, you could find such jethus, kakus and mashis in certain Bengali families. 

5. Friends from College explores many different types of relationships and lifestages amongst Lata's group of friends. Lata is twice-divorced, Aaduri has never been married, Bappa and Nisha (along with Pixie and little baby Poshto) are going through the trauma of moving back to India after several years in the UK, Tilo and her husband (forgetting his name!) are in a stagnant marriage, where some amount of disillusionment has begun setting in. So, it was interesting to see all these different characters in different stages of their lives. So much of it will be very relatable to so many people. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. I wish there were more college life flashbacks and stories. We saw very little of Lata-Ronny's relationship and since that is the central love story of the book, I wish more space had been allocated to it. 

2. The book ended quite suddenly. There is a sudden sad thing that happens and then suddenly, in a few chapters, the book winds up. I wish the author had wound up the different stories with a little more care than just rush things towards the end. This is such an immersive book that the sudden ending felt very jarring. 

Rating: 4/5     

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