A few days ago a friend and I were discussing Indian authors. While she stuck to her dislike for them I was arguing their case because I do have some favourites – and I’m not talking about books by Amitav Ghosh or Arundhati Roy. I’m talking about regular commercial Indian authors. Some are great for light reading.
I hadn’t read any of Ravi Subramanian’s earlier books but I had heard some positive reviews. And so without any background I went for The BestSeller She Wrote – predisposed (if at all) to like it.
… is about a banker-author Aditya. Forty plus happily married Aditya is the reigning ‘paperback king’, a ‘rockstar author’. At one of his audience interactions at IIM(B) he is confronted by a young student Shreya who seems prejudiced against Indian authors and objects to the idea of marketing books as products insisting it took away from creativity. His vanity hurt, Aditya advises her to read his books. She does, and overnight turns into a fan. She aspires to be an author too (a banker-author, it would seem). Aditya comes to her college placements and she lands up a trainee in his office. She seduces him while urging him to push her manuscript. Back from a trip, Aditya’s wife finds out about the affair. She contracts Ebola the same day. As she is fighting for her life Aditya realises he loves her and ends his affair with Shreya. However Shreya isn’t ready to let go of him. After much strife Aditya gets his happily ever after.
What I liked about the book
The book is about a ‘rockstar author’. I liked the idea. It may not really be happening just yet but I still like the idea. The concept of a highly saleable author becoming part of the marketing strategy of his book along with mentoring an ambitious protege could have been the premise for an intriguing story. It could have offered some real insights into the world of publishing. At least that was what I was expecting from the book.
What I didn’t like
Unfortunately that didn’t quite happen. The biggest issue for me was that I couldn’t quite get to like the protagonists, or understand them either. It is one thing for a character to be bad or evil – as a reader I can appreciate and enjoy a Voldemort or a Godfather or even the utterly slimy Uriah Heep – but here the protagonists were confused and contrived. Actually not just the protagonists, most of the other characters lacked consistency too.
Till the very end of the book I couldn’t figure out whether Shreya did have any feelings for Aditya. Did she love him (as she kept saying)? Was she simply using him (Which she certainly was)? Or maybe she wasn’t sure either way… Was there a conflict? None of that came across clearly. As a reader I would have liked to know what she really felt.
And there is Aditya. He lusts after Shreya and she panders to his vanity. He definitely doesn’t seem to be in love with her. Yet can one continue to lust after a person, continue to find them ‘Irritatingly sexy’ or ‘be hit’ by their perfume even after they have publicly humiliated you? That seems improbable, more so for a vain, public figure like Aditya. Oh and a rather personal sore point (even though I am attempting to be non-judgemental. And failing maybe) – Aditya does’t read books. Can one become a super-hit writer without being a reader? Just wondering.
At the beginning of the book, the narrative mentions that an author leads a lonely life. However, Aditya’s life seems to be full of book promotions and audience interactions along with a demanding banking career. He also finds time to help out his wife at home when the maid doesn’t turn up and chat endlessly with Shreya. It is of course possible that this is just a phase in his life. However because there is barely any mention of him doing any real writing, his character as a writer never does take shape.
My other issue is with the language. I spotted missed edits (‘Woman too make mistakes’), an unforgivable sin. There were other expressions in the narrative that irked me; expressions that are fine when spoken during a dialogue but don’t quite fit into a narrative. The language sounds forced and is full of cliches (She looked a sight for sore eyes, Like a dog in training).
There was also something annoying about repeated mentions of Crossword, Kemps Corner and Landmark popping up all the time. I could have done without them.
The book is a pacey read yet I found it disappointing.