Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Other Side Of The Table by Madhumita Mukherjee

Title : The Other Side Of The Table
Author : Madhumita Mukherjee
Genre : Fiction
Publisher : Prakash Books / Fingerprint
Pages : 240
My Rating : 8.5/10
Reviewed For : /
First Reads Challenge 2013 / South Asian Challenge 2013 / IQRC 2013


Circa 1990.
A world drawn and woven with words.
A bond punctuated by absence and distance . . .
Two continents. Two cities. Two people.
And letters. Hundreds of them.
Over years. Across oceans. Between hearts.
Between Abhi, who is training to be a neurosurgeon in London, and Uma, who is just stepping into the world of medicine in Kolkata.
As they ink their emotions onto paper, their lives get chronicled in this subtly nuanced conversation through letters . . . letters about dreams, desires, heartbreaks, and longings . . . about a proverbial good life falling apart, about a failed marriage, a visceral loss, and about a dream that threatens social expectations . . .
Letters that talk. And don’t. Letters about this and that. Letters about everything . . .
Letters with a story you would never expect.

My Review:

The Other Side Of The Table by debutante author Madhumita Mukherjee is a simple yet incredible piece of epistolary work that tugs something in your heart and slowly works its magic on you. It is a collection of letters exchanged between the two childhood friends who are separated by distance but choose to stay connected to each other with these letters. The letters move to and fro for almost a decade & act as their reservoir of inspiration, source of joy, reliever of pain and a lot more. There is a certain amount of candidness in reading the letters between two unknown individuals and that’s what makes this read an engrossing one.

As the book begins, we are introduced to Abhi & Uma who are close childhood friends. Abhi has moved over to London (without any intentions of returning back to India) and is training to become a neurosurgeon. Uma, on the other hand, who is 10 years younger to Abhi has just joined a medical college in Kolkata. Abhi is a mature, level-headed guy while Uma is a feisty girl who dreams about the unconventional & isn’t afraid to achieve it. It is said that friendships forged in childhood are the ones that last the longest & it is just that for Abhi & Uma. They stay in touch with each other through these regular, uninterrupting letters that chronicle the various happenings of their lives. They share every little detail of their lives with each other, be it as significant as a heartbreak or a failed marriage or a fatal malady or as trivial as most recent crush or an anecdote or an amusing family member. They lean on each other in times of sorrow, share their dreams & longings, understand the said as well as the unsaid alike, ask for advice, argue and tease each other, and laugh with each other – and everything of this through letters. For Abhi, who is in London, there is nothing at all that appeals him or binds him to India, except his friendship with Uma. For Uma, who is in India, Abhi is the only confidant with whom she shares her true desires without the fear of being judged. And as their life happens, one letter at a time, the reader gets a glimpse into their worlds – through their eyes.

I am sure everyone will agree that there is something about handwritten letters – a certain old world charm that is associated with it, makes them something special, something tantalizingly personal. They ooze of intimacy and provide the warmth even without the physical presence of the person writing it. And writing a novel that consists of only letters is an elusive job, the book might end up being impersonal where the readers cannot just relate with it. However, this read is quite the contrary, it is a heart-warming blend of emotions that keep you hooked till the very end. Madhumita has taken two characters with strong albeit different personalities & has developed them through their respective letters. They both gain a fresh perspective from each other & grow with each other. The writing is extremely simple and lovely that makes each and every letter wonderful in its own way. The editing doesn’t disappoint as well, which is really required these days.

If you’re looking for a unique read that will really please you, then The Other Side Of The Table is a great choice. A decade worth of letters, a poignant narration and a subtle romance make this novel a riveting read. Pick it up over the weekend and I assure you that you will breeze through it and will be left wanting for some more.

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