Book Review: Ela by Sampurna Chattarji


Sampurna Chattarji 


Price: INR 250

Publisher: Scholastic Nova

Rating: 4/5

Ela’s life is pretty perfect. Smart and talented, she has everything she needs – great friends and cool parents. On her thirteenth birthday however, Ela’s life turns upside down – in a fit of temper, her nasty little neighbour blurts out that she’s been adopted. Disbelieving at first, Ela feels utterly betrayed by her parents for keeping this fact a secret. She copes by shutting everyone out by locking herself in a little corner in her brain. Lonely and hurt, she takes to working through her angst by putting pen to paper. The fantastical story that emerges throws up questions she has no answers for and ideas that make her uncomfortable.

Ela is a strange, strange book. But I don’t mean that in a bad way (There is no exquisite beauty … without some strangeness in the proportion – Edgar Allan Poe). Even though it’s so far out of my comfort zone (both in subject matter and target age i.e. Young Adult), it had me completely hooked. The style is wholly unique – narrated in Ela’s voice with just a smattering of conversation. Most of the book is more stream of consciousness than anything else. The story Ela writes by channeling her rage is just as strange and unique and fascinating as the rest of the book.

At the heart of it however, Ela is very much a normal teenager with all the melodrama and chip-on-the-shoulderness that implies. There were many moments I just wanted to shake her back into her senses because she was behaving like a class A brat. But I learned to appreciate her drama too because Chattarji does such a brilliant job of getting you into the mind and skin of her character. 

Ela is an interesting book. It may prove to be too angsty even for YA fans, but it still deserves to be read.


The Case of the Missing Participants

I’ve been AWOL from the blog thanks to the nine day long Kala Ghoda Children’s Literature Festival in my city. Being a part of the organising team was such a stroke of luck since I got to hobnob with brilliant children’s authors (old and new, in all shapes and sizes) from all over the country.

As for the events themselves, most of them were held in a gorgeous bookstore called Kitab Khana. The wooden pillars, high beams and general old-world charm floored the visiting authors, many of whom would have happily given up rooms in their hotels for a night in the store.

The fest lasted from February 2nd to 10th and featured a whole range of Indian children authors with lots of fun events.

Of course, we had our share of hiccups, some more alarming than others.
February 3 began with Revathi Suresh, author of Jobless Clueless Reckless, visiting us bright and early on a Sunday morning with nary a teen in sight. What happened to all those registered participants who promised to be there? Learned to Disapparate apparently. Here, the author recounts the morning in her own words.

the duckbill blog

Revathi Suresh talks about her first lit fest–as an author.

When Sayoni and Anushka asked if I’d go to Kala Ghoda I didn’t have to think twice. ‘You bet!’ I said enthusiastically. I was thinking what lovely people my book—and I—had gotten hitched to. They were not only going to bring out my magnum opus but they’d also send me on nice-nice holidays it seemed.

“Feb 2 to 9 are the dates, is that good for you?” Sayoni asked politely.


“So let’s discuss what you’d like to do at the event then.”

Ev…ent? Event. Event! Ok. The tubelight finally flickered on. No no. I didn’t want to go to Kala Ghoda anymore. I’d always thought that if I found a publisher I would—post whoohoo-ing and high five-ing the family—go back to lounging around in my nightie and stir sambar or whatever it was that needed stirring, do laundry…

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Book Review: Twilight Robbery by Frances Hardinge

twilight robberyWhen I was growing up, I didn’t have stacks of unread books. Book shopping was a limited activity forcing me to reread the copies I owned to near tatters. This year, however, I’ve shopped for more books than I can possibly read in quick succession, giving me a delightfully large to-read pile. Much like an unread Harry Potter book, some of the books in the pile make me so delightfully excited about the fact that I’m yet to get lost in their pages. As much as I want to read them, I keep avoiding picking up the book because I want something to look forward to. After reading the first in the series of Mosca Mye adventures, Twilight Robbery was one such book. Like an unread Harry Potter book, however, I had to read it sometime and now the only complaint I have is that the next book in the series isn’t out yet.

The book follows the further misadventures of Mosca and her partner-in-crime Eponymous Clent. Poverty-ridden and without a place to call home, both find themselves in a strange town called Toll that has its own way of keeping its citizens and visitors safe. People born under auspicious gods (or Goodman/Goodlady as they are called in this world) are allowed to ‘exist’ by day while nighttime sees them locked up in their houses and brings out those born under subjectively nefarious gods. Mosca and Eponymous can’t wait to hightail it out of Toll but their exit requires money, a luxury neither of them possesses. Add to this a plot to kidnap the mayor’s daughter and both protagonists are once again caught in the middle of important happenings they have little control over.

Just like its predecessor, the book is full of action-packed hijinks right from the first chapter where Mosca gets kidnapped. It also features strong new characters and a wonderfully detailed and intricate plot. Throughout the book, the pair just keeps falling from the frying pan to the fire and back again. Both have the tendency to lie, cheat and steal without batting an eyelash but they’re also in possession of an uncomfortable conscience and sense of loyalty. Hardinge also subtly peppers the narrative with situations and characters that don’t sit quite right with the reader and reveals red herrings and Macguffins right when you think the loose ends are all tied up. The book has its share of ludicrous situations (which I love) and clever subplots. Hardinge has a knack for creating highly imaginative worlds with its own absurd laws that somehow seem perfectly acceptable. Both books place Mosca and Clent in societies fraught with inequalities and ripe for revolution. Quick-witted Mosca is unafraid of danger and falls headlong into adventure and matters of grave importance.

The only thing I missed in the book is further details about their previous adventure. Mandelion, the city where they accidentally helped spark a revolution, is only mentioned in passing as a rebel city and its characters don’t make any appearance besides in Mosca’s head. I also have this completely useless talent of anticipating events and twists in films, TV shows and books which made a reappearance while reading this book. However, the amount of things I did guess right in the beginning were far outnumbered by the ones that I didn’t. Twilight Robbery packs in so much in a single book that there’s never a dull moment. The events of the last book never quite get resolved in this one which makes me impatiently eager for the next installment.

More people need to read and fall in love with both books. You can read my review of the first one here.

Twilight Robbery

Frances Hardinge

Pages: 528

Price: INR 325

Publisher: Pan Macmillan