The Spectacular Miss is a light, fun read
We have all had thoughts of ‘I wish I were a boy’. As females, we were envious of our brothers getting more freedoms to go out on a whim, stay out longer, not having to give a detailed account of what you did outside home. And then it is also that the younger children look up to their older siblings and they learn a whole lot of things from them.
I remember that my younger son’s first word was not ‘Mom’, it was the elder one’s name. He learnt to call me ‘Mom’ much later. But such is life.
In The Spectacular Miss, in a family like Nira’s where she has two elder brothers, she thinks she is a boy and is a happy-go-lucky tomboy getting into scuffles and fistfights and leading the children in her colony. She is indulged by her elder brother Rahil (Ra) and teased and challenged by the middle brother Nikhil aka Nick. And Nira also gets her name which is a combination of (Ni)ck + (Ra)hil = Nira. She even grimaces as ‘What were the parents thinking when they named her thus?’ It reminds me of Mrs. Funnybones where Twinkle Khanna starts off by despairing about her name.
It is a funny take as I have seen this common practice of naming children in Kerala. There are odd names like ‘Shy-mol’ and ‘Sha-mol’, and a pair of twins known as ‘Shine’ and ‘Shiny’.
Nira grows up and realises that she is a girl. She is confused (aren’t all teenagers?). She wants something, but ends up doing something else. She is never sure about herself. She tries pleasing her parents, her brothers, impressing the ever-present Bir who is Ra’s close friend. But she is not pleased herself. She is living in a confused state and nobody in the family, who are busy pursuing their middle-class life thinks it is strange or needs to help her. They take it as a part of growing up.
But, it is Bir who is always the one who understands her and takes her out for ice-creams and drives and looks at her as a ‘kid brother’. He even sends her pink pastries from his father’s kitchen. He is also super rich. But, Bir is also 10 years older than Nira.
Nira thinks Bir is her whole world, or rather she is the whole world for Bir. Her idolization leads to infatuation and then blushes into love. But Bir is now married to the perfect woman and there is nothing Nira can do at fourteen.
As Nira grows into a teenager, she realises that she is a misfit. Don’t we all, at that age? She struggles with her school life, college life and love life, even straddling different cultures as she studies in England and yearns for the much-married Bir.
The book is a typical coming of age story and it is predictable at times.
But, the difference lies in the way the author has handled the subject. The book is written in first person as the voice of Nira. So, we read all her immediate thoughts, the uncensored, self-deprecating, sarcastic ones and also her dreams and little wishes. Soon, you want to see to it that Nira gets it all. The book is strewn with humour and wackiness. The book starts off a tad slow as the author sets the stage for the 8-10 year old Nira. But, as she grows and later moves to England, it becomes more and more engaging. Didn’t I say the book is also funny?
The characters are well-created and you feel sure you have met them. Nira’s room mate in England was excellent as she thinks and speaks in British English strewn with their mannerisms.
The book is well-written and well-edited with no errors. That itself is a sigh of relief as one can enjoy reading the book. It is a light, fun read.
Author: Sonia Bahl
Release: February 2016
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Reviewed by – Lata Sunil
She’s an ace blogger and has been writing book reviews and fiction since long on her blog.