Remember a drive in an Ambassador?
Big and comfortable, wrapping you in its sturdy, towelled seat warmth, shielding you from the harshness outside with frilly curtains, cushioning every bump, it’s height offering enough of space for any deep pot hole, space enough o accommodate the world plus its friends, neighbours, extended family, help and pets...holding its own along the crowded streets.
Now if you had to take all that feeling, warmth, coziness & strength and put it into a book… Bena’s Summer it would be.
Quite frankly, I don’t think I have come across a book quite like this.
I do not think my words can do this book justice, but I will tell you a wee bit about it.
In very simple words, I guess I could say it is a family saga, centered around one little 8 year old Benazir...Bena, and her summer holidays to both her maternal and paternal grandparents homes, transporting you to the charm of small town North India.
The book ambles along wrapping you leisurely as it pulls you into the story and once there it enraptures you with the power of author Shibal Bhartiya’s effortless, almost lyrical writing.
Like the hot, crispy, sweet jalebis featured in the book, which are eaten for breakfast...it is enticing and delicious, oozing with flavour, sweetness and that hint of tang that will keep you gorging on its beautifully descriptive words.
Bena is just the most precocious, innocent child you will meet. Yet her innocence is often tested, responding with an intelligence and understanding that is beyond her years.
The author gently touches on various issues, family dynamics, culture, Hindu-Muslim riots, death, ill-treatment of the elderly, family politics, friendship, untouchability, sexual abuse, forbidden love, girl power...all with humour and mirth.
I loved it and I do hope I see more from this author. I do however feel that the older the reader, the more they will appreciate this book. So save it for the young adults, 14-15+.
As an adult, do read it...it will warm the cockles of your heart.
I heard about this book from author Payal Dhar who recommended it on Funky Rainbow's Book Buzaar and I promptly ordered it from them.
I must say that I was surprised that I hadn’t come across recommendations for this book on social media.
Some gems just go missing, in the pile of stones touted as precious.
A sparkling MUST READ.