Sunday, 1 April 2012

Book Review - Urban Shots - The Love Collection

Buy Urban Shots: The Love Collection

The short story in English is alive and well and living in India. Several Urban Shots anthologies of short stories  have been released here by Grey Oak/Westland in the last two years. This anthology, The Love Collection, edited by Sneh Thakur,  is a worthy addition to the collection.

Contrary to what one might initially suspect, this is not escapist romantic fiction. Although the stories deal with love of the romantic type in its many manifestations, this fiction is rooted in harsh reality.  It is none the less enjoyable for all that.  Each story is comfortably short  and  can be read during lunch hour or coffee break.  

There is  a variety of situations to deal with when it comes to love in urban India.  The girl in a northern town, debating whether to marry the man she loves instead of the man who could give her an affluent life.  The ‘happily’ married man who regularly meets a girlfriend for a quiet  date.   The earnest young man in a southern city who consults  an astrologer regularly to discover God’s plan for his future and believes that he met his wife as a result. And many more.  Each situation unique yet  somehow familiar.  If you live in India, as I do, these characters could be your neighbours and colleagues.

Some  stories  tug at your heart.  One, set in  Pune left me particularly moved, as it concerned the bombing  at the German Bakery which occurred  in the recent past.  That was quite apart from the killer twist at the end of the story, which took me completely by surprise.

Since this is an anthology of fiction and not a novel, there’s a veritable choir of writing voices.  I particularly enjoyed the work of Ahmed Faiyaz, who happens to have three very distinctive stories here.

I noticed some technical flaws.  That poignant story about an ageing couple could have been drastically improved (in my humble opinion) by losing the first one and a half pages.   Characters don’t leap off the page when they don’t speak until half way through page two.   Readers  don’t  need to wade through interminable narrative.  They learn about the characters by seeing them speak and  interact.  Another story, in which the main character makes love to a ghost didn’t convince me either.  A ghost is a spirit, not flesh and blood and even if paranormal romances are becoming popular, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief to enjoy the story as much as I wanted to.  I’d have been convinced had the writer dreamed the lovemaking instead of ‘doing it’.  Also, I detest point of view (POV) shifts in short fiction.  Having to jump from inside one person’s head to another’s,breaks the flow, for me at least.  Thankfully, it occurs in this volume only occasionally. 

Stray flaws notwithstanding, I still say this book is paise vasool.  An attractive yet discreet volume which can be easily carried around to keep you entertained on the bus, the train and the waiting room.  Pick up your copy today or grab it online here.

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  1. Thanks to a gift of this book, I was able to read the story set in Pune. I am yet to read most of the others, but what I have read leads me to believe that the short story genre is something that I should now pay some attention to.

  2. It is one that I haven't come across, but it looks good.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  3. I’ve been following and enjoying your blog for a while now and would like to invite you to visit and perhaps follow me back. Sorry I took so long for the invitation


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