If a novel written in a refined language and style appeals to you, this book is the next one you must read. It also has a nice background setting of a Himalayan village too.
Maya, a young widow, leaves her town of Hyderabad to Ranikhet, a sleeping village in the foothills of Himalaya. Her husband, Michael, a trekking fanatic, had died during his expedition to Roopkund and is cremated at Ranikhet. She had married against the wishes of her loving parents, so she does not go back to her former home.
She finds a job as a teacher in a Christian missionary run school in Ranikhet and a cottage on rent to live in. Course of life completely changes for her as she is drawn to beautiful setting of Ranikhet and many eccentric personalities it houses. Her landlord, Diwan Sahib, is a grand old man. He has an unaccomplished task of writing the biography of the famous hunter of the mountains - Jim Corbett. Helping Diwan Sahib in that task becomes part of daily routine of Maya’s life. There are rumors that Diwan Sahib has in possession of the letters written by Nehru to Edwina. So he is much sought after person for many journalists.
In the courtyard of the crumbling mansion there are mud huts and there lives Charu, a village girl along with her grandmother and uncle. The school where Maya teaches is headed by Miss Wilson. Mr. Chauhan is a newcomer in the town who is determined to turn Ranikhet into a tourist spot to boost the business for Aspen Lodge, a hotel chain for which he is the manager. In his hotel, there is a cook Kundan Singh, who becomes the lover of Charu.
It is Veer, a relative of Diwan Sahib, who was a visitor to the mansion, shifts his base to the house. He too is a mountaineer, a professional one and runs an organization to guide the trekkers. A relationship develops between him and Maya.
In the course of events, Kundan Singh leaves to Delhi and Charu leaves Ranikhet to join him. Diwan Sahib dies of old age and ill health. He leaves behind a will. Maya discovers a strange truth that Veer did know about her husband’s death. The novel ends with her response to stark realizations.
Though the whole story is told through Maya’s eyes, all the characters find equal opportunities to express themselves. With a nice blend of wildlife, changing political scenario in the hills, conflicts in religions do find mention in the novel.
This is the second novel of Anuradha Roy. All three of her works have been well received by the readers and critics. Her latest book ‘Sleeping on Jupiter’ was shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.
She is a publisher turned Author, knows the importance of a finely written novel. She rewrites her work to almost perfection, so it leaves fine taste in the readers and lasts long.
She lives with her publisher husband at Ranikhet where this novel is set.