Monday, August 23, 2010

The Last Laugh: Book Review

I love short stories. They are always an easy read, written to accommodate interruptions of daily life and yet leave you fulfilled. Sometime ago, a friend of mine sent me ‘The Last Laugh’, a collection of stories penned by a debutante author Ramya Sethuraman. I quickly read it, cover to cover, over two train journeys to work.

Ramya‘s stories deftly illustrate the intricate human emotions of love, friendship, deceit, guilt and sometimes of its shortcomings. Her writing is simple yet eloquent. Her words evoke sensations, of smell, sight and flavor. Her characters are well established and her attention to detail is remarkable.

In ‘The day I became Krishnaa’, my personal favourite - An aspiring writer, Krishnaa, pens the story of the two women she adores the most. Her grandmother, Lakshmi a strong-willed, compelling woman steeped in her traditional way of life. And her mother, Nalini, a soft-spoken, bashful but intelligent daughter-in-law. In her quest of self discovery Krishnaa understands the tumultuous dynamics of caste system and the unspoken bond of love that links her mother to her grandmother.

Her title story, ‘The Last Laugh’ however, lacks the finesse observed in some others. For me the emotions felt contrived and the story failed to build up characters that are quintessential to the book. Having said that, I enjoyed Ramya’s portrayal of the fiery, passionate Raji in ‘Silambattam’, the delicate, faithful Radha in ‘Radha and I ‘and the apprehensive, chatterbox Radhika in ‘The prophecy’.

While most of the stories employ an exotic south Indian backdrop and bring to life ordinary plots, some stories reveal the author’s confusion in the landscape. For instance, in ‘Letting go of Anand Nivas’, the setting is ambiguous with its reference to Urdu ghazals and turbans that is predominantly popular in the north and the unfitting filter coffee which is radically south.

With its predictably happy and tear jerker endings, ‘The Last Laugh’ has all the awkwardness of a debutante author. And while the book may stop short of becoming one of your go to books, there are moments that make you believe that the striking story teller Ramya Sethuraman is someone to watch out for.

On the whole, this book makes for a quick read and I would give it a rating of 3.5/5

You can also visit Ramya’s blog and read about her upcoming projects and her other works of fiction. ‘The last Laugh’ is available on all the websites listed on Ramya’s blog.