Book: Paper Moon
Author: Rehana Munir
You know what’s the next best thing to living your dream life?
Reading about an endearing character leading your dream life.
So well, that’s what Paper Moon was for me.
Fiza is a college student leading a rather uneventful (read boring) life comprising soporific lecturers on English Literature. She lives with her mom, her father having deserted them when Fiza was a few months old. She is in a long-term relationship but cannot find it in herself to commit.
Then her father passes away, leaving her an inheritance with the hope that she would set up a book store. Her hitherto uneventful life is thrown into fourth gear. She busies herself scouting locations, planning decor and — my absolute favourite part — visiting books dealers and buying books by the cartload.
Even as her mom refuses to come to terms with her father’s ‘other’ life since he left them, Fiza has to contend with his other family that includes a step-brother. Also thrown into the mix, is a gentlemanly, urdu-speaking, mystery admirer.
What I loved most of all
…was that the book was brimming with book-talk and book references — something I missed sorely in my last read Once Upon a Curfew. I found Mulk Raj Anand and Joseph Heller. Albert Camus was there with his The Stranger as also Tolstoy with War and Peace. Each passing mention was like brief glimpse of an age-old friend. Sample this:
She stepped out of her bus at Marble Arch one evening and walked towards Hyde Park. The place had planted itself in her imagination via Iris Murdoch’s The Word Child.
That’s exactly how it happens, right? When you see a place you’ve read about?
And of course there had to be a mention of Kathleen Kelly and her Shop Around the corner (how could there not be?).
Fiza’s store was my dream store – a place stocked with books, cosy corners strewn with cushions you can sink in, window seats where you can read peacefully and also a cafe within the store with delectable tarts and croissants. My idea of heaven!
Fiza’s mom is a Jazz singer and I was reminded of old favourites like A Streetcar Named Desire while Paper Moon (which I hadn’t heard before) is running on a loop even as I write.
What could have been better
My one complaint with the book was that there were no real conflict areas. Or rather – every conflict was resolved way too easily. Fiza finds the perfect location, at a low rate, has a designer at hand to help her and a family friend to run the cafe in her store. Other members of her team also come together a little too easily. Whatever tiny hiccups the author did build up were resolved conveniently.
Also, in the latter part of the book the setting shifts to London. While I did enjoy that bit as a separate entity, the change of scene broke the flow of the narrative. I would have liked it better had she stayed on in Bombay while her family drama played out. Another thing, I couldn’t help but wonder how Fiza could desert something as dear to her as her book-store, for months together. Specially, since it gave her such a sense of purpose and happiness.
That aside, Paper Moon made for a light happy read.
Last Thought: A light read if you’re looking for a bookish fix.