This book, ‘No Man’s Land’, written by Nilesh Shrivastava, is almost a classic. Ninety percent of this book is solid literary fiction, and then, the author does the unimaginable – he gives it a fairy-tale ending that is so untrue of the characters he has painstakingly developed all throughout the book!
“You must realize that there are two sides to every coin. You only have to change your perspective to see that the victim is actually the perpetrator and the perpetrator, the victim.” – Nilesh Shrivastava, No Man’s Land.
This, I feel, is the unsaid (but sublime) theme of this book. What I liked the most about this book is, characters are not portrayed in black & white ~ good & bad. All of us have multiple shades of good and bad in varying intensities within us, and portraying characters as they are in the real world adds an element of realism, so important/vital for a book in this genre (IMO).
The basic story revolves around five characters who don’t share much of an emotional bonding with each other (due to circumstances). They are drawn into the center of an inheritance drama involving a large piece of farming land, in yesteryear Gurgoan, that was fast developing as an urban center.
Like in the real world, each person justifies their actions and intentions, without really understanding the other side. Character building is excellent, to say the least. But at times, while describing the relationship between Pranay & Shreya for example, the author goes overboard in the detailed description of the events that happen between them. Read: Description of mundane events.
Perhaps that was required to understand their background, their character and their intentions. Only after he gives us a complete picture of all the individuals involved, he brings up the land issue/tussle. I give full credits to the author for this treatment and hence bringing the characters alive, in our minds.
Even after all of them are in one place – in the farm – the author maintains the realism of the story. Events may seem to have been brought in to add to the ‘conflict’, but I think those events merely resulted because of certain actions/decisions these characters were bound to take, given the situation.
I loved the first 90% of this book. You can’t describe it as ‘racy’ reading, but it was definitely the kind of reading that will ‘sink in’ – slowly, but surely.
And then comes the climax. I suspect if the climax was even written by this author or if it was done at the behest of the editor/publisher? The climax just undoes all the good work that has been done in the previous pages.
I am not saying that the climax is uninteresting. It holds our interest and at the moment of reading the climax, I initially thought it was excellent. It even brought out emotions in me. But all that euphoria was short-lived. Why give a fairy-tale ending to a story, which could never have a fairy-tale ending?
I will go one step further: If I were that ‘temperamental’ Karan, would I drop the gun, even after I was shot at, and renounce all the rights to the property? NO WAY, man!
Why lie, just to amplify reader interest and emotions? Literary fiction need not take umbrage in poetic justice. Unless, of course, the author expects the script to be made as a Bollywood movie, sometime in the future. The book may deserve it, but Bollywood, doesn’t.
The climax, or in the context of this book, anti-climax, shouldn’t take away the credit rest of the book deserves. I am sure that most people would enjoy the climax in its present form, anyway.
Even though this is just the second book written by this author, it is excellent. Almost a classic. Read it y’all. You won’t be disappointed 🙂
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