Book Review: Laal Tin Ki Chhat (The Red Tin Roof) by Nirmal Verma

This is a novel by one of the most foremost novelist in Hindi literature- Nirmal Verma. Now, there are two travesties with this review- one- it is being written in English while the novel was in Hindi and two- the novel is not available on any of the e-commerce websites at the time when the review is being written.

Anyway, great literature transcends all barriers and much will be lost in translation but, it is worth writing about. You can always read the English translation of the classic which is available by the name – ‘The Red Tin Roof’.

The story is about a girl Kaya and how she treads hesitatingly and awkwardly on her path from childhood toward adolescence. She watches as her mother suffers during stillbirths and depression. She watches as her uncle shares carnal relations with a maid from Nepal. She watches the crankiness of Ms Joshua- the British lady who lives with her family. The multitude of layered characters create an enticing field.

Then there is her paternal aunt’s daughter Lama. She is the most curious character and seems to be battling with crippling depression. Depression which comes as a pathology and unlike any other disease causes severe repercussions on her whole personality. It is unclear whether Lama was schizophrenic but the author has treated the whole episode with amazing finesse. The story is from the viewpoint of a kid so, there is a unique sense of wonderment in the worldview she shares with the reader. Everything is hazy and dreamy. The smallest noises, events and characters are painted in most curious colours. The novel slowly moves toward Kaya’s adolescence and the narrative never really intends to hurry or make a point for that matter. It is all in the beauty of words which you have to feel to believe.

A brilliant novel from a master wordsmith.

5 stars.

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