Sunday, 5 June 2016

Book Review - False Ceilings

Author – Amit Sharma
Publisher – Lifi
Genre – Fiction
Pages – 256
Price - Rs. 295

First Impressions
An old Almirah sits in a room, as if holding some secret. Its lone companion is a classic radio, who perhaps knows the secret but is forbidden to reveal it. Since I knew the story was based in Dalhousie, the hills on the cover were no surprise. The cover gave me an impression of something very mysterious inside, which I could only discover by reading ahead.

My View 
False Ceilings is not just a story, it is a saga of a curse passed from generation to generation. The story begins with an eccentric Aaryan pondering over the If-Else statement and drawing parallels with life. Thereafter, we set on a roller coaster ride with each chapter introducing a new character and its miseries. From the 1920's the story suddenly changes gears and brings us to the 2060's. But we are so lost keeping up with the overload of new characters that the shift between centuries is the last thing bothering us.

Most of the story revolves around Shakuntala, with whom the mystery begins its torturous game. Of all the characters in the book, Shakuntala has had the most eventful life, that shows her the best and worst of everything and gives a message that nothing is permanent - be it affluence or misery. Born to wealthy parents in Dalhousie, Shakuntala has everything but love. Her grandmother dreams of a male grandchild and her mother burdened by the pressure of producing a male child, always sees Shakuntala as a source of her misery. The only solace in Shakuntala's life is her father's unbounded love, which too is short-lived as the curse engulfs him. Trying to gather her life and move on, Shakuntala discovers true love in Manohar (Manu). Dressed as a bride, as she is about to begin her new journey, the curse presents itself to her, wrapped in a yellow cloth. While she decides to leave the past behind her, she is oblivious to the fact that she has already packed the curse with her, which is going to travel with her all through her life and even affect her descendants. Ironically, Shakuntala ends up becoming like her grandmother who was the main culprit behind her family's doom. 

The curse, which could have been a cure to the miseries of many characters passes many hands. Its power is such that no character is able to survive the revelation, leaving the readers guessing about the mystery wrapped in the yellow cloth. 

Aaryan is most disturbed character, next to Shakuntala. A childhood painted by unpleasant memories of 1984 riots and constant tension between his parents and grandparents transforms him into an unsocial and a workaholic person, as if trying to burn away his life. His unusual end therefore, does not come as a surprise.

There is a strange similarity in the lives of the couples. What seems like the ideal relationship initially gets corroded over a period of time. Generation after generation, we see the same story repeating itself. All that remains after a life and relationship wasted is an Almirah and the secret in its false ceiling, waiting to be passed on. 

The story is like a Jigsaw puzzle, presenting the readers with the various pieces and towards the end, making it all clear. Does the secret finally cease to haunt the family? Does someone break the spell? Grab the book and find the answers.

What I loved 

  • The unique narrative, which is uncommon for a debut. The author effortlessly oscillates the story between past and future without losing the grip on the story. Some readers may find the story confusing in the beginning, for the first few chapters introduce characters without  explaining the relationships between them. It is only towards the end that the jigsaw is solved and the readers take a sigh of relief. 
  • Despite being a debut, the characters are well shaped up and manage to strike a chord with the readers.
  • The book boasts of some amazing descriptions - be it the picturesque Dalhousie or the mad rush of Delhi. While the story takes us through generations, many important historic events too are retold, like the 1984 riots and the 1947 partition.  The author's impression of life in 2060's with its well imagined technology is impressive. The narration is so realistic that when the book is over, one feels having traveled through time.

What could have been better
  • While the story is gripping, the overdose of characters in the first few chapters may make many readers lose interest. In order to keep track of the story I kept on drawing a sort of family tree on the last page, which helped me relate the characters. The puzzle is solved only for patient readers in the last few chapters when the relationships between various characters are revealed.
  • Few typos could have been best avoided.

My Rating 

This review is for Writersmelon


  1. Good encouraging review of a debut novel!

  2. Nice and full-fledged review that prods me to pick up the book

  3. The book sounds interesting. A very balanced review :)


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