Dont Let Him Know by Sandip Roy.
Date : 19th April,2015
This was our second option to reading The Pearl that Broke its Shell.
Frankly, I was disappointed.
The style is well enough : small idiosyncratic details bring to life the typical Bengali family of the 70’s contrasted with the typical life of the expatriate son well settled in USA , married to a native with a child etc. etc. Observation and portrayal is authentic, and strike a chords of recognition throughout.
Interest is considerably aroused at the opening when the married son discovers a love letter from a man amongst the flotsam of his paternal household after his father passes away. He assumes it is to his mother and talks to her about it , very kindly, suddenly feeling as if the mother he took for granted had suddenly assumed an interesting and different individuality. The mother does not reveal any confidences to her son but the story unfolds in a series of back and forth scenes of her wedding, first months, later years in Kolkatta, eventually the visit of the mysterious lover to their household.
The initial interest is pretty soon dissipated however when we realize that the clandestine love was that of her husband who was a closet homosexual.
It then becomes a very straightforward , though quite sensitive narrative about the angst of a man unable to acknowledge his true nature.
This is where the chapter-wise back and forth style from present to past, from the perspective of one character to another becomes awkward . I suddenly realised that each chapter was more like a short story and there was no substance in the theme, no sustained plot or story. I skimmed through the rest of the book without interest.
Subsequently I read some reviews on the net and discovered that indeed the author had converted a few short stories and notes into a novel. This he has done by using a common set of characters to tie the whole thing up.