Book Review : Then the Doorbell Rang by Capri Jalota

Click to buy, or read on Kindle Unlimited.

WHY I READ THE BOOK

I had seen the book on Kindle Unlimited, and dismissed it as – not my type – as I was on a thriller reading spree of late. At this point, I must also admit that I have begun looking at Indian authors with a biased angle. (Judge me for being judgemental all you want!) For this one, I made an exception and read the blurb, and put it on the ‘could be read’ list whenever I felt like reading a non-thriller.

Today, my friend Anita posted a short review about it and the name rang a bell. (Pun very much intended.) As I had just finished the rather long Dead Lawyers Don’t Lie (also a debut, incidentally), I downloaded it immediately.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

If you are anything like me, you are a cynic when it comes to the quality of writing of the recent crop of debut Indian authors. You do want to read authentic India-based stories but can’t seem to find a lot of read-worthy books.

This one is a welcome addition to the read-worthy section and falls under romance/drama/contemporary fiction genre.

(I should mention that the author Mr. Capri Jalota is a Bahrain based Indian expat, so he can also be termed as a Bahraini author.)

The quality of writing bit sorted, this book is a definite page turner despite not being a suspense novel.

Case in point : I finished it in 4 hours since I downloaded it, today!

If you like the current crop of woman-centric movies in Bollywood (Do I see you cringe at my comparing movies and books? Sorry! Let me give you book examples – All and Nothing by Raksha Bharadia, A Woman of My Age by Nina Bawden), you’ll like this emotional roller-coaster ride that the flawed but gumptious protagonist sets out on.

Top 3 reasons for you to read the book :

1) It is backed by Leadstart Publishing, which has established itself as a publisher of quality books over the last few years.
2) The narration is not pretentious (which is my biggest grudge against many debutants) at any point.
3) The characters and happenings are completely relatable. If you’re tired of reading over-the-top plots which lack believability, then this one is so rooted in ordinary life that you’ll be surprised why you’re wanting to know more about the happenings in such a routine setting.

THE PLOT

The story revolves around the Anglo-Indian lead Jane, who is a highly successful Dubai-based real estate manager plagued by personal issues that threaten to bring a standstill to her ability to handle her job efficiently unless she resolves them. She sets out to find the person who has all the answers that will supposedly help her achieve emotional closure, but ends up in deeper problems due to the decisions she takes during the ‘search’. She tries to bring her life back on track after the unfruitful and disastrous ‘search’ trip and is on the brink of finding love again when things go wrong again.

Utterly dejected and unhopeful, she resolves to put an end to her suffering on the day the whole world celebrates; and then the doorbell rings! It is for you to find out what happens next. Does Jane find solace after all?

 

THE CHARACTERS

Since the characters are the essence of this beautifully written book, I will not go into deeper details of each of their traits. I do want to write about them though, so it would be better if you come back to this section after you read the book.

Jane

You have an Indian Doctor married to a British citizen and Jane is their only offspring. Constantly conflicted about her identity, she decides to identify more with her mother’s side just because she is never introduced formally to her Indian side. She is very decisive, often acting on instinct and regretting in hindsight. She discovers her empathetic side a little later in life when she starts looking at things from others’ perspective.

Uday

You get to know him from Jane’s reminiscing and his own journal entries. I loved how the author gives us the glimpses of a man who cannot give up his past and is trying to come to terms with a life-changing decision he has made under somebody else’s influence while maintaining his basic nature that others define as easy-going and selfless. It is difficult to decide whether you feel sorry for him or hate him outright.

Mahesh (and family)

The quintessentially helpful Marathi manus who has managed to rise to an upper middle-class lifestyle from humble beginnings through sheer hard work. He is a happy family man with a doting wife who singlehandedly brings up their daughters and rightfully nags him sometimes to take out some time for their own selves. The purpose of this whole family is to show what a perfectly happy household looks like (and what life could’ve been for Jane according to her ‘thoughts to self’. I don’t think Jane could have had that life considering the kind of man Uday was.) and how fragile the illusion of the ‘perfectly happy household’ is…

Rahul

He’s apparently a selfless fellow who has dedicated his life to social service. I’d say he’s one of the most selfish people in matters of the heart. He advises his best friend to ‘come out clean’ to his fiancée while he himself doesn’t communicate his reservations for shunning the advances of the girl he loves. The flamboyant techie turned dedicated NGO worker ‘with a heart of gold’ is in fact a manipulator who thinks he knows best when it comes to other people’s romantic choices.

*spoiler alert*

I don’t know why this Rahul reminds me of quite a few leads played by Hrithik Roshan where he romances the heroine for somebody else, falls in love in the process, and then selflessly steps aside because it would be wrong to marry the one who’s claimed by his best friend (or boss). I have no sympathy for such losers. (Sorry for the outburst. The credit for this goes to the author’s incredible character etching.)

*spoiler over*

The supporting characters – Jane’s dad and mom, Mahesh’s wife, their pre-teen and toddler daughters, Jane’s physiotherapist, Jane’s boss, her in-laws, and her dad’s extended family are all expanded just enough to help the reader get to know them and still not get distracted from the main plot.

WRITING STYLE

The language is refined, the flow is smooth, timeframes are defined, and the dialogues are engaging. I found only 1 typo in the book.

Most of the narrative is in flashback, and proceeds from Jane’s point of view. The reader thinks with her, explores with her, contemplates a dilemma with her, and unwittingly and unwillingly flees from conflicting situations with her, and regrets and hopes with her.

Such is the grasp of the author on the subject matter of female emotions that the reader lets go of superficial things like where the story is heading and drifts with the cluelessly or otherwise drifting protagonist.

WHAT I LIKED

  1. There are no black and white characters. Everybody is flawed, and still almost everybody is likeable.
  2. There are no loopholes (good) or loose ends (not that good**). The motives of everyone’s behaviour gets clear towards the end. (There’s a writing rule to let somethings be for the reader to figure out. The author has broken it and the result is actually good. The book offers closure to the reader too along with the lead.)
  3. Thankfully, very thankfully in fact, there are no proofreading mistakes (except one). It makes the book highly readable.
  4. The settings (Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi, Agra, London) and happening are familiar to most readers who’ll pick up this book. It is a real skill to write about fictional people whose life is turned around by real-life mishaps or milestone events.
  5. The conflicts (I get a bit technical here) are well-timed and do not seem forced. It helps that the author seems to have a deep understanding of the psychology of toddlers, pre-teens, middle-aged and old aged people of either gender.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

  1. Let’s address the elephant in the room. The book is not lengthy still the narrative goes into too much detail in places.*spoiler alert* Mostly in Uday’s journal and then towards the end of the book. *spoiler over*

    While it is very tempting for the author to put down everything that is unfolding in his mind, it is a harsh fact that readers generally skim over the parts where they think they’ve known everything there is to know on the page at that moment to move forward in their reading; especially in times when the attention span is too low.(Like you – my reader – have probably skipped to point 2 after the bold spoiler alert font. See what I mean? But I am not writing a book, so I can afford ‘skimming readers’ to illustrate a point to the author who will surely read this review. 🙂 )

  2. The book does not wrap up in time.This is slightly different than lengthy detailing. This is where the plot refuses to stop after the end goal of the story is seemingly achieved.(**This happens because the author has broken the writing rule mentioned above.)

    Have you ever watched a movie where you thought it is brilliant in places, dragging in parts, but in the end you’re happy you’ll take back some good memories when suddenly the director inserts a 10-min sequence? Baahubali-2 anyone?

    (I know I am contradicting myself by adding these lines. I seem to be very intent on irritating my readers. Thanks for bearing with me so far. If you’re skimming, all is well.)

IN A NUTSHELL

I enjoyed it because I have lived in Dubai – the place where it all begins and ends. And also because I genuinely liked the narrative voice that is honest. The story shows and doesn’t tell (if you know what I mean). You’ll probably enjoy it for the latter reason.

Pick it up if you’re anybody who reads. Really, this one is not the run of the mill romances, or crusader stories just because it happens to be a woman centric book.

My rating is 4.0 on 5.

(It should be counted as highly biased (in a good way), because I’ve not been reading the real ‘quality’ stuff of late. This is a whiff of fragrance for my mediocrity clogged reading nose. Eww…I know the metaphor stinks! But looks as if I’ve found my writing wit. 😛 So many buts in this post, can you count? )

Catching up

Hi ya folks!

It was my blog’s birthday on 4th September. The day I migrated to self-hosted domain. 5 years ago.

Kalamkaari might think of me as a very negligent owner. To that, I’d say – you’re still better off than thedamsel.in 😛 Two years, and it ain’t much functional.

Anyhoo, belated Happy Birthday! 

My birthday is approaching too. In the first week of October. (I’ll post around that day, yes dear blog. Don’t make that face.)

Right now I am on a ‘training vacation’ at Mom’s. I’ve coined the term. It means training at your regular pace at a place where you’re the most at ease. It gives you time to think, plan, and act on the plans. (Aeeee Kalamkaari, I’m talking about shooting. Not blogging. Don’t look at me as if I am slacking.)

My physical training Coach has told me to run regularly to improve mental toughness. The idea being – 15-20 mins of alternate day slow running builds in you a strength to complete a task you’ve undertaken. I am doing that, and it is working fairly well for me on the shooting front.

I am thinking of an experiment. To implement the same thing on the blogging front. Slow writing, gibberish writing, deliberate writing for 20 mins to build a blogging rhythm. I think that would go a long way in building my mental toughness some more. (And pleasing the rightfully sulking Kalamkaari too.)

My 20 mins are up for today. Good to have caught up. See you soon!

Img Source : Vitacentre.org

Sixteenth Ramble : Today, I don’t feel like writing.

I don’t feel like writing today. Hey! I can post this same sentence over and over again in the rambles, can’t I?

No. I know. Also, I won’t.

But today, I really don’t feel like writing. Maybe I’ll write a few backlog posts that I have missed, but I don’t want to write today’s post.

Isn’t that really how I have come to think? Finish off tasks from days or years before today. What I have to do today can be done tomorrow. And what about tomorrow? Those tasks can be done day after tomorrow.

Writing is not a task though. It is a hobby. What is the difference between a hobby and a task? Can a hobby not have a task or can a task not be a hobby? I have to set weekly goals in my shooting, all of which require certain tasks to be done. Now shooting is a hobby…which has tasks…so can writing also be/have tasks? No. Somehow, thinking of writing as a task puts me off. Why does a task have to sound so negative? Tsk…tsk…

So yeah, I am not going to write anything for the 16th of February. Although I may write the backlog posts as I have said.

I have a Grammarly widget which identifies all sorts of ‘possible spelling confusions’ but does not give a prompt when I write ‘it’s’ in place of ‘its’. You are a failure, Grammarly extension for Chrome! That said, I must reduce dependence on it. Waise bhi, it was installed as a requirement for a content writing task.

Task…there we go again. Today is a holiday at the shooting range. I miss my shooting tasks. I have writing tasks waiting for me. I will do anything to wiggle out of them. I did my nails (that is a rare occurrence), and am even thinking of drawing (which makes me miserable; for I cannot draw what I want to draw and end up jealous with those having the knack of drawing) and cleaning my room (this is a fairly regular occurrence but I never finish the task…like I don’t finish writing. But I am willing to give finishing it a thought rather than finishing writing).

I see my blog staring  at me with a ‘I am disappoint’ look.

Sorry blog, but I just don’t feel like writing today. And like most of the times :

But am just showing up…because 80% success…blah…blah…

 

Get ready to ramble!

As you might already know, February is the month of rambling – thanks to the awesome Lady at Shail’s Nest.

You post about anything that catches your attention at the moment or tell a story you just remembered or post flash fiction or rant or just go on rambling every single day in February. It is also a blog hop, so you meet and greet your fellow Ramblers.

January has almost ended. 2017 has begun. February is about to start. Why am I stating the obvious? Because I am getting in the groove for rambling.

Just so you know, I have resumed my shooting practice this week. It has become such an integral part of my life now that I was feeling restless in the one month of ‘rest’ that I was forced into.

What am I going to ramble about this year? I don’t know. Can you plan rambling? Then it is not rambling.

Maybe I’ll talk about things I have started this year. Like driving. I knew driving since I was 16. Being under age, I was not allowed to drive outside our compound. Somehow, the under age/ un-prepared tag stuck till 30! Better late than never, they say! So yeah, I am experiencing the adrenaline rush that a teen has when he first rides a moped by himself or when a child rides a bicycle without training wheels. It is empowering too. Gives a feeling of being in control. Sheesh, I rambled about driving here itself. What shall I ramble about in the Ramblings now?!

IWSG : January Question

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. My awesome co-hosts today are Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner!

IWSG

January Question : What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I have grown up reading old classics by Jule Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, R.L.Stevenson, Charles Dickens – to name a few. It tried my patience to get ‘well into’ the book as the descriptions of the surroundings went on and on in the first few pages. If it was not about the type of scenery or the grandeur of the mansion that the characters lived in, it was about the typical habits of the character in question. It was as if there was nothing happening in the book except when you were into the 2nd or the 3rd chapter. If you were real unlucky, the book would pick up pace well after the first half.

This was my feeling when I was a teen. As I got accustomed to this style of writing and grew in years, I began to appreciate knowing where my characters are. The descriptive surroundings lent credence to the traits that the character got as a result of inhabiting them at that point of time/in the past.

Recently I finished reading Jane Austen and loved her descriptions of the manors and houses that her characters lived in, and the ball rooms they visited.

I have attended several writing workshops, and read several ‘How to write a successful novel’ articles which say that the ‘First sentence matters’. It should never be about the time of the day or about the surroundings. I interpret that as : The first sentence should not be something that a regular someone would say while narrating a story (like, ‘Once upon a time…). It should be striking; something that a reporter would say to catch your attention in a fraction of a second, and stop you in your tracks when you are surfing channels on the TV.

Mumbo-jumbo, I say. I call the bluff! How many first sentences (of the books you have read) do you remember? I just remember the last sentence of Gone with the Wind – ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!’

And that exactly sums up my feeling about this writing rule. Never start your novel with a sentence describing the time of the day or the surroundings. If your writing is honest, your reader will have patience to turn the next 2-3 pages and see if your story entices him further. If not, well, too bad! I am not writing a novel to please my readers, I am writing to tell a story I want to tell. I won’t tell it by adhering to some imaginary writing rules which claim to make your book an overnight bestseller.

Other than grammar rules and maintaining a decent sense of chronology, I don’t have much respect for writing rules at all. Writing is an art, you can establish vague pointers, but you cannot have people writing out of a rule book. Tch!

I wish I had never heard the never begin your story with description rule.