I've been on a non-fiction streak lately. History, travel, what not. But there's only so much non-fiction I can handle at a time. After a point, I need a quick light read to relieve a bit of the seriousness. So when a mail popped into my inbox offering me a preview copy of Yashodhara Lal's There's Something About You, I clicked through to the free three-chapter preview with interest.
Before I continue, I should confess something. I don't generally read such books. And by "such books", I mean the ones that directly or indirectly trace their lineage back to Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone (the book that kicked off a whole industry of Indian "commercial" fiction). I've tried a few of these books and been turned off by the shoddy sentence construction, the deluge of typos, and the way they talk down to the reader.
So when I see books packaged (yes, that IS the best word) in bright colours, with long titles that give away the plot line of the book, my brain generally tends to hit Skip.
Which is why, when I started to read the preview chapters, I didn't expect Yashodhara Lal's book to be much better. But I was surprised - pleasantly. It was so nice to read an Indian "light read" written by somebody who can put a sentence together properly. I binge-read the three chapters in the preview (and then her blog for good measure) and realized that I would have to read the rest of the book somehow (she really knows how to throw in a cliffhanger).
The book isn't releasing until July 20th, so I responded to the mail and asked for a preview copy. The book popped into my mailbox (the real life physical one) three-four days later. And I finished it before the day ended. When the mother of a five-month-old says that about a book, you better believe that that's one unputdownable book. (Or maybe I have a bad binge-reading disease. Possible.)
So what's the book all about? Though it's been billed as the Romance of the Year, it's actually much more than that. It's about Trishna Saxena (Trish), an overweight 28-year-old who uses sarcasm as a defence mechanism. She feels the need to protect herself and her family (a father with Alzheimer's and a mother who tries to dominate her life) from any intruders. Her nice comfy life is disrupted when she loses her job. To add to the confusion, there's a seven-year-old who behaves like a teenager, an agony aunt column, a tragic accident, and of course our male protagonist, Sahil.
Yashodhara Lal writes well - she's funny (in a sarcastic way). There are some interesting non-cardboardy characters, a decent plot that is predictably feel-good, and yet has some surprising elements (does that even make sense?), and a love story that is kept subtle and low-key.
The best part of the book was that it didn't talk down to me, the reader. It expected me to be intelligent and yet want to have a good time - something other writers in the genre don't seem to have understood yet.
And - hell - I might as well confess it. I LIKED Trish. I identified with her, I liked her sarcasm, I liked her flaws, I liked how she didn't have everything together in her life (at the beginning of the book anyway).
I do have a few things to crib about, of course. By the end of the book, there are just too many plotlines. Those who read the book will understand what I mean - the final plot element is a bit too dramatic and hard to take in.
The second crib I have is the cover. I mean - would you look at that cover? Is that supposed to be Trish? That looks more like a fashion-conscious teenager than a 28-year-old overweight writer. But I guess this cover will sell better.
Overall - a well-written, light, feel-good read that has ensured that I won't discount all commercial fiction out of hand in the future.