Book Review : The Honest Season

Published July 17, 2016 by vishalvkale


Kota Neelima has been a journalist for 20 years and holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the Jawaharlal Nehru University. She writes on politics, democratic reforms and issues concerning rural poor in India. She is Senior Research Fellow, South Asia Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC. Neelima has written four books of fiction based on her exploration of Indian politics, her experience as a journalist as well as a researcher. Each book questions the accepted notions of politics and society and seeks to demarcate desperation of hopelessness and choice.
The current book under review is a political thriller, and it has to be said, it is completely different from any political thriler I have read; a book that is among the best I have read in fiction in any genre. This is a work of sheer class, and makes for a rollicking read. The most surprising aspect is that the author is not known for penning this genre, having her forte in an entirely different and niche class – that of rural India and farmer issues.
The Characters 
Mira Mouli – A Loner, highly perceptive, endowed with special powers, with a rather painful childhood, and an apparent air of complete detachment
Bidur Munshi  –  Apparently, a straight businessman focussed on meaningful news
Mahesh Bansi –  Political biggie {I mean biggie, earnestly}, with all its entrapments. Problem : A father as well. {Is it really a problem? Don’t ask me, read the book}
Sikander Bansi – Aah. The big one in the novel, surprise item on any number of parameters . A politician with a desire to expose all in politics, including father dearest.
Nalan Malik – Good guy. Neutral guy as well. And yes, before I forget, bad guy to boot. Who is is he? What is his motive?
The Plot
In one or two words : pure dynamite. A new member of parliament, and the son of a top biggie, fancies himself as something of a political commando of sorts, an Indian John Rambo albeit in the political arena; this chappie decides all by his lonesome that things ought to change. And, this delightful chappie firmly believes that charity starts at home, thus leading to taking on his own party, before, shall we say, graduating to more juicier targets {post-graduating? Mere graduate isnt enough of an “upadhi” for this bravado / smarts / cunning / foolhardiness methinks}
Now just revealing things obviously wouldn’t do it, now would it? So, this chappie decides to sort of become a jar of Vanishing Cream. Smart you’d say? Well, actually, not quite. This chappie / Vanishing Cream creates a doozy of a puzzle for one Journalist, our heroine, that trail of which may lead to his location. Now that, I respectfully submit, is plain stupid on the face of it; or is it? Why would Mr Vanishing Cream first expose through live tapes political skullduggery, then plot a trail right to his front door? Sounds crazy, at first, second as well as third glance. Why does he do it?
The Review
The book is not a particularly fast read; it is steady, deep and with intrigue; and has a slow build-up. That does not mean that it isnt exciting in the first 40-50 pages; to be fair, the book draws you in right from the first page. The first few pages are all about filling in the background, and getting the story to the main thrust; wherefrom the novel takes off. The good part is that the backdrop has been filled in not through boring details and prose, but through an enticing series of dialogue; interviews; flashback etc – all of which are highly relevant to the story.
The book reads almost like a whodunit, an intriguing plot line and development ensures reader interest throughout the book right till the epilogue. Pace has been sacrificed for the interest of plot development and story; this makes for a very fulfilling and relaxed read. Unlike other genres, this doesn’t move in fits and starts with staid sections intermixed with rapid sequences; it progresses at a steady, even pace, which is why due attention is given to nearly all aspects. This also means you have to pay attention; for a full understanding, you have to get the cues that are interspersed in the pages.
The Characterisation is spot-on, and gels completely with the story; the characters have been fleshed out very well, with sufficient background development and story. That is why the actions of each character seem completely reasonable, and almost expected from each. This tends to both move the story forward in some ways as well as enables an engaging read. Further, this approach has meant that the characters stay with you a long time afer you have finished reading; I can testify to that, as I read this book nearly 10 days ago – and can still recall the characters and their personalities and natures.
All in all, this is a book that is an excellent read, engaging & absorbing, with a plotline that is absolutely unique, hard-hitting and mind-blowing. The development of the plot has also done justice both to the stunning nature of the plot as well as to the real world; nothing comes across as forced or contrived; in fact, if anything, at more than one place you feel as though the sequence is highly plausible – so convincing is the narrative.

There aren’t very many negatives, none that I could spot at any rate. This is a book as close to perfection as it is possible for it to be given its genre. However, in the interest of fairness and plausibility, I must state that this is not for those who are into  1000 kms a second pace in fiction, as it were. If you don’t enjoy intrigue & complex machinations and prefer breakneck speed – avoid; this is not for you – especially given the pace waxes as wanes with the plot development. The only other point- the concept of Know Journalism, which I felt could have been developed more convincingly. That said, what is present is good enough, and has complete gel with the story… 

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