Thursday, November 17, 2016

Book Review : Untitled by Gayathri Prabhu

A random purchase based on no recommendation or inclination, "Untitled" became yet another book to make itself home in my bookcase.

I had also bought "To Kill a Mockingbird" earlier and was planning to write a book review on that. As masterful as that book is, the whole world knows about it. This book on the other hand lit the wick of my imagination much like the embers in the lamps of the house of Wodeyar women.

This is a historical fiction set in the times of Tipu Sultan. The protagonists are two painters - Richard, an English artist and a Brahmin boy Mukunda who is drawn to art rather than the art of reading planetary movements.

The author beautifully brings out the many facets of Tipu Sultan - the ruler, the strategist, the merciless and the merciful. The book moves at a fast pace. From Richard's arrival in Madras to his reception in Srirangapatinam, we learn of the turmoil he faces. India, like it was for many Englishmen, was his coming of age story.

We also get a glimpse of the society's rebel - Mukunda. As the son of an astrologer, one expects him to docilely comply with the promptings of fate. But here is a boy who believed destiny was his own making.

My favourite character is Suhasini, the dark daughter of a fair priest, her intelligence knew no bounds. She is cunning, manipulative and charming. Her strong personality comes to life with the author's choice of words. She becomes the trusted informant of the Wodeyar Queen who was imprisoned. 

The book is replete with historically accurate information. It truly transports the reader to another time. An era where the king relied on both strategy and astrology. An era where Indians were not yet viewed with the loathing that will come after the First War of Indian Independence in 1857. An era where communication could take months. 

Yet, some things were timeless. The earnest will of the soul to not conform be it Richard, Mukunda or Suhasini. The absorbing nature of passion and art. The fact that there are no real victors in a war. The fact that humans can become animals when there is nothing to lose and there is no accountability.

This book is worth your time. The prose is almost poetic. If I had to find a flaw, I'd say I found it unbelievable that all the main characters had such a fine instinct about the uncertain future.

The subject is close to my heart. A trip to Mysore had prompted me to churn out this historical fiction. I felt like I visited the same places, but in another time. Do buy this book :)

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