The Lovers – the title of this book is taken from a painting (called The Lovers) by Picasso (1904). The cover of this book is elegant and reflects tenderness and intensity. ‘The Lovers’ by Amitava Kumar talks about Kailash, a naïve (however, he has some mischievous friends like Bheem and Noni) boy from a small town Patna, who like many other Indian boys goes to America for a better future. I am not sure if I can tell you what the basic story of ‘The Lovers’ is, because there’s no story as such. It’s an amalgamation of Kailash’s memories, exploration, self-discovery and affairs. Talking about his affairs – there’s Jennifer (who gets pregnant), Nina (who constantly lies) and Cai Yan (who understands him well.) He has a little fling with an Amy too. However he seems to be an unsuccessful lover.
Amitava Kumar is an eminent writer, a Professor of English at Vassar College. So, his writing is obviously good, however his language is a little heavy especially in the beginning. I felt Amitava Kumar’s writing is tailored more for non-fiction than fiction (as this book has been categorized). Sometimes, this book feels like a History book and at others, a memoir. There are so many clippings, pictures (Black & White) and footnotes (sometimes half page long) in this book. Except a few things like a sketch that’s a storyboard for the scene from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali and some lovely quotes (they are not from the author though) like – ‘I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss – you can’t do it alone’ – John Cheever, they might not interest the fiction-lovers like me. But, I must admit that the author’s writing has a certain tenderness and vulnerability at some places, especially when Kailash jogs his memories.
The author has expressed Kailsh’s repressed longing beautifully with quotes like – ‘I had become a translated man, no longer able to connect completely with my own past. What else had I forgotten?’ Kailash thinks and cries after reading a book by Ismat Chughtai and feels, ‘I felt my soul has been cleansed by sorrow.’ I loved this line. The book has so many references of Indian artists, movies and songs. Also, the book tries to direct our attention towards the Naxal problem in Chhatisgarh and Farmer’s suicide in the form of Cai Yan’s published articles. I liked reading about Kailsh’s relationship with Cai Yan. Unlike his relationship with other women, his chemistry with Cai had the warmth that makes a relationship beautiful. ‘No one there could imagine how hard she (Cai Yan) had worked to journey to a place where her present met my past.’ – Kailash thinks as Cai Yan visits India.
Talking about characters, this book has a crowd of characters but nobody stands out as memorable one, however I found Cai Yan’s (and somehow Nina’s) character interesting. Overall, The Lovers was a good reading experience. I would recommend it to those who like reading non-fiction. I would have loved it more if it had a few elements of typical fiction.
Reviewed by: Tarang Sinha
She is a freelance writer and author of We Will Meet Again, a mature love story. Her writing has appeared in magazines like Good Housekeeping India, Child India, Woman’s Era, New Woman and Alive. Her short story, Dilemma, has been published in a bestselling anthology, Uff Ye Emotions 2. Her supernatural short story, It Rained That Night, is available on Juggernaut Books. She is an avid reader and blogs about books.
Author(s): Amitava Kumar
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Release: June 2017
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