Title : A Flutter in the colony
Author : Sandeep Ray
Genre : Historic Fiction ; Indian Fiction ; South East Asian Literature
Pages : 344
I received this Review Copy from Penguin Random House SEA in exchange for an honest review.
“If you aren’t a rebel in your twenties, you have no heart; but if you don’t feel lucre in your thirties, you have no brain.”
In 1956, the Senguptas travel from Calcutta to rural Malaya to start afresh. In their new hamlet of anonymity, the couple gradually forget past troubles and form new ties. But this second home is not entirely free and gentle. A complex, racially charged society, it is on the brink of independence even as communist insurgents hover on the periphery. How much should a newcomer meddle before it starts to destroy him? Shuttling in time and temper between the rubber plantations of Malaya and the anguish-filled years of pre-Partition Bengal, between the Malayan Emergency and Direct Action Day, between indifference and lust, A Flutter in the Colony is a tender, resonant chronicle of a family struggling to remain together in the twilight of Empire in Asia
The Flutter in the colony is a historical fiction taking place in newly independent India and pre-independent Malaya. This is the story of a young couple who moves from Bengal to Malaya to start over their life from scratch. The plot is written in timelines, one is the present 1956 in Malaya and the past life of the protagonist in Bengal. The author jumps between past and present with every alternative chapter, this shift was smooth and interesting.
Since the author is a historian himself, he has meticulously infiltrated historical events into the plot and weaved a beautiful narrative out of it. The story revolves around the protagonist called “The Young Man” the author has not named his protagonist except for “the young man” or “Sengupta” which is his surname. This was initially confusing and later turned into curiosity, as readers we would expect to learn the protagonist’s name at some point which didn’t happen. After completing the book it dawned maybe the author didn’t want to give a definite identity to the protagonist because he wants the young man to be the representation of young men who lived during those periods of history. I may be wrong but this interpretation seems quite fascinating.
The author has beautifully written down places in this book. It is always a bliss to read about Indian cities and villages, especially if their period. The way in which the author has described the pre-partition Bengal was ultimately nostalgic. His effective writing skills instantly transferred the readers to that period without any difficulty. He has done the same thing with Malaya, as a reader, you will be able to experience the 1950s Malaya and Rubber plantation to the fullest even without visiting it ever in your life. This is one of the major successes of this book.
This book had a lot of communities, you will get to know about the Senguptas in Bengal and the kind of people living in Bengal. Once the lead characters shift to Malaya, there you will be able to meet English people, Chinese, Tamils, Malayans, and Bengalis. This mixture of cultures was fascinating. To make it more authentic, the author has used phrases and words, these people use on regular basis in their everyday life.
The way the story started was amazing, it was simple, happy and engaging. As the story commences forward it gets more and more deep and serious. The protagonist hits a low point in his life after coming across certain life-altering events. How he sulks in it, and how he gets out of it has been sensibly written.
The protagonist and his friends start a magazine and create a revolution during the pre-partition time. Though the idea behind this was good, at certain instances it felt like only one side of the history has been showcased. It would have been extraordinary if the author has been more neutral.
The author has also focused on famine, and what famine did to people. The happenings of the Sengupta household were also interestingly written. Maloti’s character had many layers, and though she played a considerable role in this book, it wasn’t sufficient.
In Malaya, the author has clearly elaborated on the politics, the differences, insurgency and all in greater detail. All these were quite informative and helped the readers see the clear picture of this locality and its affairs. The best thing about this part was, here the author covered everything about all the communities living in Malaya. He went a step ahead and gave a vision of what the communist insurgents are also going through. But towards the end, it felt like the plot has missed its mark and certain things could have been avoided.
On the whole, it was a decent book. The writing style and narrative style were awesome. A stronger and solid storyline would have made it much more wonderful.
The feel and aura this book gave were simply amazing. I liked the overall experience this book gave me. I absolutely loved the way the author has brought Bengal and Malaya in front of my eyes.
I just had a couple of issues with this book, one being, Maloti and the young man getting married. Though it was something extremely normal in those days, it was just unacceptable. At least for me. The next issue was, there were certain political differences, especially certain comments by Nirmal Sengupta and one of the young man’s friends throwing statements which were not so nice.
During the period in which, the protagonist was politically active, I couldn’t understand his entire gang’s motive, because one moment, they were not happy about Muslims being treated as their equals in their country India and the next moment they are arguing with Hindu party people that they should give some rights to Muslims if not Muslims will seek partition. And at the conclave of their safe circle, they talk bullshit. It was quite confusing to understand these characters but what was clear was, these characters want Muslims to have rights just to save the country from the partition but deep down, they feel like Muslims are second-grade citizens. This was disturbing. And the next major issue was, the author had written about partition riots in Bengal, here the author has focused on Muslims killing a Hindu doctor who served the Muslim community but as I said earlier, this doctor himself wasn’t having highest of regards for Muslims. I felt like this book strategically just showcased Muslims killing Hindus and not vice versa, which definitely happened in history. The communal violence done by any religious people is wrong, I stand by that but emphasising the violence done by one community alone seems biased and one-sided.
The next thing was, to be very frank, I didn’t like the ending of the book. It was heartbreaking to read this kind of an end. How the author started the plot was spectacular but towards the end, it felt pretty pointless and aimless.
Other than these issues, the book was good.
My rating for this book would be 3 out 5 stars
Use the link below to purchase and read this book.
Once again, thank you Penguin Random House for the review copy 😀
Happy Reading Folks!