02 July, 2013

#BookReview :: The Hope Factory by Lavanya Sankaran

Bangalore: where innocence, deceit and love collide

Anand is a Bangalore success story: successful, well-married, rich. At least, that's how he appears. But if his little factory is to grow, he needs land and money and, in the New India, neither of these is easy to find.

Kamala, Anand's family's maid, lives perilously close to the edge of disaster. She and her clever teenage son have almost nothing, and their small hopes for self-betterment depend on the contentment of Anand's wife: a woman to whom whims come easily.

But Kamala's son keeps bad company. Anand's marriage is in trouble. And the murky world where crime and wealth and politics meet is a dangerous place for good men, and those who rely on them.

At a glance this novel is made of two parallel stories. One where a family that seemingly has it all and wants more. In the other where a family has virtually nothing and wants more. Their entwined lives tell a fascinating story.

First is the story of Anand, a successful businessman. His wife is a typical socialite, whose wants are never ending. Anand plans to expand his business and for that he needs land and money. Even with help, Anand is facing difficulty to go ahead with his plan because his ideals are extinct in today’s competitive market.  The second story is that of Kamala, one of many domestic help that Anand’s wife employs. As a widow, Kamala’s hopes and dreams revolve around her son Narayan. She wants to give him a good education so that ‘he can learn English and get a job with computer’. Narayan, barely a teenager, on the other hand skips school regularly to hang out with the rowdy crowd. But at the same time, he also works to earn what little money he can for his small family. The common thread among these two distinctive families from separate classes is need.

Lavanya Sankaran has woven a mesmerising story to include drama, politics, love and deceit. For me, the only drawback was its pace. Slow start and slow to progress – the plot could have really done with a bit of fast-tracking, but the language and the narration more than makes up for it. There is only one way to describe her language and writing style - beautiful. It was an awesome experience to read such classy prose with the dialogues delivered just right. The complexity of each character is striking and they felt very real. These distinctive characters actually come together very well. I liked Anand who is loveable, generous and principled. Vidya comparatively is shallow and lives on impractical whims. Kamala is strong and wilful.

The highlight of the novel is its plot. I loved the way has brought together two very different point-of-views of the same thing. The extremities and the complexities of lives of two families from different social ladders, with their similar challenges made for an interesting read. Real life, real emotions and real problems of life mixed together to create a work of fiction that could very well be facts representing many families of our country.

A fascinating piece from Lavanya Sankaran that can and will touch lives – give it a chance.

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