Of late, I have been doing the unthinkable. I have been abandoning books half-way if they don’t hold my interest, and even returning them more or less unread to the library. This had been an absolute no-no in my life till now; perhaps I could put it down to an increased awareness of my mortality and the fact that I just don’t have the time or energy to read an uninteresting book to the end.
The Help helped me(!) in rediscovering some of the magic. I got so engrossed in it that I almost ruined the surprise birthday party planned by my friends because I refused to get out of the house, inspite of various blandishments such as tea and treats being dangled before me. Luckily, I finished the book before the party! 🙂
Going to the library was proving to be an exercise in futility for me. None of the books appeared in the least bit interesting. I didn’t want to do heavy-duty classics, I didn’t want fluffy chick-lit or steamy M&Bs (boy! are they steamy now or what?!) or action-packed thrillers or badly written “Indian writing”… I refused to admit that I actually didn’t want to read anything — that would have been blasphemy!
It was in this truculent mood that I chanced upon How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper. I picked it up because the title appeared promising. My instincts were not wrong. Needless to say, I finished this book in one sitting, and at the end of it, I felt this book ought to be put up as an example of how to achieve the perfect balance between literary and commercial, between a book and a movie. For truth be told, the book did read like a screenplay.
The writing is droll and touching at the same time. The writing is careful and artful. The very first paragraph has you reaching for that highlighter:
“the way his eyelids hang sluggishly at half-mast…”
“…torturing myself by tearing memories out of my mind at random like matches from a book, striking them one at a time and drowsily setting myself on fire.”
The characters are well-etched: the laid-back Doug, his aggressive twin Claire, …you get the idea. They appeared pretty real and believable to me.
The comedy is funny enough to have you chuckling. The emotions are true enough to make you nod with understanding. The sex is perfectly natural and not just because it needs to be there. The action makes you think instantly of movies and Hugh Grant, who would be perfect for the role, except it calls for a much younger man.
Even though you know the ending, you can’t help but journey with the characters as they stumble along their convoluted lives (unlike Ram-Leela, where you would dearly like to put a bullet through the hero and heroine at their very first meeting and cut the torture short!).
If I ever write a book, I think I’d like to write one like this. Simply because (in my opinion) it exhibits a quality dear to me — balance.