2021 Mar 25
The first page of Nilu A.’s debut novel “Mandvi” starts off on an adrenaline-fuelled high note. The reader is introduced to Mandvi, a town in the state of Gujarat. The mention of it is seemingly innocent with the promise of a bigger story lying underneath. We later find out that this place has always fascinated the author because of the tale of seafarers and traders from the town being washed up on the shores of Sri Lanka.
A captivating story of 5 women starts unravelling from the get-go, only to twine together beautifully in the end. Five very different characters with five different backgrounds keep the reader engrossed in their five stories until the end when they collide. Nilu A.’s ability to bring a vivid picture of her characters in the imagination keeps the tale from being hard to read and confusing to follow, maintaining a smooth easy-flowing style till the last page.
Ranging from a small-town girl with exceptional talent, a beautiful teenager discovering her sensuality for the first time, a poor, little rich girl and much more, the stories of the five women spans three generations, covering various topics such as gender, sex, marriage and race. Drawing the reader into the five beautifully-crafted lives, the author cleverly touches on each issue with nuances and emotion that reveal themselves to the reader upon reading the novel for the second time.
“Mandvi” was born out of the mother-of-four’s passion for writing, a skill that she took up after her children went abroad to study. For a novel born out of a simple pastime, it successfully captures her power of imagination and her strength in giving life to each character. The heading of each chapter offers a tantalising glimpse of what is to follow in the next few pages, a clever touch that makes the book more personalised and keeps the reader hooked.
Another touch that grabs the reader’s attention is the names of the characters. They each represent an element of nature. The action is a powerful figure of speech that encapsulates how humans are dependent on each other, just like the elements of nature do.
I found myself reaching for this novel repeatedly, trying to discover the hidden treasures within the pages. The story is packed with hope, courage, despair, determination, taking the reader on an emotional rollercoaster along with its plot. Set in India, the book beckons the reader to visit the seaside town.
A few surprises also pop out from the enthralling chapters that keep the reader engaged. The fact that female voices tell the story using evocative language makes it powerful and more emotional. Her ability to effortlessly tell the story of the five women keeps the reader actively engaged in all five lives, turning the pages to find out what happens to each character.
Mandvi isn’t a book of many pages but Nilu A. manages to fill each and every page with activity. I found this book to be a quick read simply because I couldn’t bring myself to put the book down. Most tales have one heroine whose story revolves around her until the end. I enjoyed reading the stories of five.
The book can be purchased at Milk @ 12 Barnes Place, Pendi which is located inside the Lakpahana building complex and Hype Studio Sri Lanka on Instagram!