Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Search of Love and Beauty - (the incomplete review)

Aren't we all?

If you are not familiar with any of Jhabvala's work, I'd recommend you rush off to the nearest bookstore and buy Heat and Dust. In case you only know her for her collaboration with Merchant Ivory Productions on many of their projects, you still need to rush to your nearest bookstore and buy her novel.

Jhabvala's novels are like quicksand; once you start the book you sink into its world completely. Her stories revolve around ordinary people living ordinary lives and facing ordinary dilemmas. What makes her novels an extraordinary read is the way everything is woven together. All the characters are linked in some way or the other and most, if not all, of them are in search of some sort of fulfilment. Her storyline is devoid of major twists but has very strong and well thought out characters.   The people in her story are alive; they have likes, dislikes, distinct personality traits and they change and bend according to their circumstances. While reading her novel, A Backward Place, I couldn't shrug off this feeling that these characters actually exist in people around me.

In Search of Love and Beauty is one of those books which, if you read in one day, can actually leave you a bit morbid. All the characters in the story are, as the title suggests, in search of either one or both. The novel starts in New York of the 1930s and revolves around the life of a group of wealthy European immigrants living in exile. The beauty of the story lies in the non-linear, episodic manner in which Jhabvala shuffles from past to present, explaining and revealing the lives and secrets of Louise,  her daughter Marietta, her grandchildren, Mark and Natasha and their association (and dependency) with the 'former Adonis', guru, spiritual healer, quack/genius - Leo Kellermann.

The story was absorbing but there was a feeling of gloom surrounding the novel and it came as a great relief when I finally finished it. The one thing which is common in all Jhabvala's novels is the end - it is usually very vague and almost without any definite conclusion.

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[I wrote the above while going through my 15/15/30 challenge during Ramazan. Why I never completed this review and what happened to my reading marathon are questions I've answered in 'How I lost my books to the aliens..'].