I have been immersed in all things Indian this week. I finally got round to watching the highly acclaimed film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and I read the debut novel from Manisha Jolie Amin, Dancing to the Flute.
The film and the book both filled me with a sense of the colour, warmth and richness of India. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tells the story of a group of mature English individuals who find love, friendship and themselves when they are brought together in the confusion, noise and heat of India. Dancing to the Flute follows the lives of three young friends as they are growing up, finding their way in a tough world which can bring joy but also immense sadness.
Watching the film helped to create a sense of place in my mind which I’m sure added to my enjoyment of this novel. However I would have been just as captivated by Manisha’s story without the help of the big screen because she fills each page with vivid descriptions: her writing has an ethereal quality which transported me to the harsh realities of rural India.
The book centres on the character of Kalu and how he is fortunate to be rescued from a life of poverty and disability because of his talent for playing the flute. Music is central to Kalu’s life and is also the focus of the book itself. There is a rhythm to the narrative; the authors’ words dance across the page as she educates the reader in the complexities of Indian ‘raag’ (mood) compositions.
The characters of Kalu and his friends, Bal and Malti, are beautifully described but so are the supporting roles such as the colourful Ganga Ba and the playful, kind, elderly servant, Ashwin. All the characters have an important part to play in making this book such a delight to read, just as every note Kalu plays is essential to the piece of music he performs.
An excellent first novel which I can highly recommend, whether you accompany the read with a good dose of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or not.