Tag Archives: Decadence

Hedon by Priyanka

Hedon by Priyanka Title: Hedon
Author: Priyanka
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0143425953
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Hedon is a story of two people – Tara Mullick and Jay Dhillon. What’s new about it, you might ask? Well the difference is in the plot, in the brilliant nuances of the book as you turn pages effortlessly and they exist on almost every page. Hedon is the kind of book (and I say every word when I mean it) that will not let you go till you are done with it. To think it is a debut, I couldn’t believe it was one.

The book is not just about two people and their lives and how they meet on and off and what eventually happens to them. It is also about the other characters – Tara’s friends, her family, her relationship when she is at school in the US of A, Jay’s relationships and what he feels or thinks and more than anything else it is about their connection and how it plays out for them across time and distance.

Tara and Jay meet for the first time at a wedding and life isn’t the same for either of after that. Not because they met, but because of how their friendship blossoms and then the realization of love that makes you feel that void and the hurt that comes in its wake. We see life as narrated by Tara – from her Calcutta days to the time she moves to the US of A for her further studies and the back and forth that takes place – through deaths, fights, and passionate love that can only lead to the inevitable conclusion.

I think more than anything else it is the way these characters’ lives intermingle that kept me hooked. Also let me tell you at this point that Tara is but just seventeen and Jay of course is a little older – he is twenty-five. This isn’t about age as much as it is about their lives and how they come face to face again after seven years from when they first met.

The story then moves along – across time periods and hence the cultural references make so much sense and are so needed for a book of this nature. Not only that; even the secondary characters have unique voices – from Cookie and Button (Tara’s best friends – it is very intriguing to see how those relationships play out as Tara leaves the country and visits once a while – I thought even that was empathetically handled as well) to their parents and siblings views that appear once a while and the rest of the time they are in the background – maybe content being there. Also might I add the school these girls go to – that also forms a major part of the book and lends to the time from being a girl to transforming to a woman, as cliché as it might sound. It isn’t just a love story – there is more that lends itself to the story – a lot more actually – it is about the rites of passage, of growing-up, the angst that comes with it and also it is about the realization what really matters when it comes down to it – from the choices we make to what we live by as a consequence of those choices.

“Hedon” is a book that encompasses voices of times infused with waywardness, the need to belong one way or the other and most importantly of people who want to make a dent – as they go through life, love and everything in-between. To pin point and say that it is only a love story or only a slice of life story, wouldn’t do it justice. It is more than that and one can only realize that after reading it cover to cover. Hedon is a lot of randomness and somehow you see it all tying up at the end or in between, but it does come together and that is something that plays itself out beautifully.

Priyanka’s writing is razor-sharp. It is biting, juicy and makes you visualize everything that is written. She captures everything to the last detail – the food eaten at a friend’s house to how the shamiana was – sort of a festival where boys and girls from various schools participate in and gather. The minute details of youth are encapsulated to a point of evoking those bittersweet feelings in you and bring them to fore.

How else then can you define or classify great writing if not this way? There is more than one way to describe it and I shall try. It is something which you perhaps have never read before. Sure you must have read something similar, but not anything like it.

There is also the element of various pop culture references that make you fall in love with the book and relate to it at that time over and over again. Might I also add, the ending is nothing like what you might expect from a regular novel, because this isn’t a regular novel to begin with.

The language of the book is easy to read and so intense that it feels like someone punched you in the stomach and you are recovering from it. The prose is laced with irony and humour in good measure, coupled with the melancholy and the pains of realizing who you really are and what or who can you call home.

The book releases on the 26th of April 2016.

Book Review: The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn

 Title: The Patrick Melrose Novels
 Author: Edward St Aubyn
 Publisher: Picador USA
 ISBN: 978-0312429966
 Genre: Literary Fiction
 Pages: 688
 Source: Publisher
 Rating: 4/5 

The Patrick Melrose novels written by Edward St. Aubyn are not to everyone’s taste. These novels aren’t a happy read and do not promise a rose garden, so to say. The Patrick Melrose novels are made of 4 novels – Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk. The novels trace the English Upper Class through Patrick Melrose and his affluent family.

The four books made me think a lot and sometimes cringe as well while I was reading them. That is because Edward St. Aubyn has written a set of stories so believable that you almost recollect memories of people and times when you have encountered similar situations, may be through different people.

All books in the series take place over twenty-four hours and that is quite a feat for a writer. To be able to fit in everything – the plot, the emotions, the reactions and the thought-process over a given period in a book has always fascinated my sensibilities.

Never Mind – the first book, starts with Patrick at five-years old, being sexually abused by his demonic and narcissist father. The abuse also extends to Patrick’s American mother and at the end of the book; you are left feeling hopeless and angry.

The second book, Bad News, shows Patrick Melrose trying to face his own demons as he at 22, sets off to collect his father’s ashes from New York. Most of the second book is told in interior monologues which makes it both – interesting and confusing at times. Patrick in New York spends a drug-crazed twenty-fours and experiences life in a new form.

The third book, Some Hope reflects on Patrick’s life as a recovering addict. It depicts the possibility of him starting over. In this book, Edward gets us to see the other side of Patrick – the point when he is in-between sorting his life and wanting to start anew. The state of mind, emotions and thoughts are beautifully described in this book.

The fourth book in the series, Mother’s Milk is about Patrick as a parent. In this book, the focus is on Patrick’s mother who is plotting her own scheme of betrayal and hence the title. The series does not end here. There is a fifth book as well, “At Last” which I yet have to read and discover the magic of St Aubyn’s writing all over again.

Edward St Aubyn is not a writer that you take to instantly. His writing grows on you. The writing is vivid, sharp and painful, with the occasional brushes of humour. The Patrick Melrose novels are all about greed, decadence, amorality and the decline of a system of the aristocrats as observed through a person and his family. The story has to be read in order. One cannot skip a novel or read from anywhere. There is a lot of verbal power packed into these books, to the point that I had to read something funny to get back to these books. Like I said it isn’t meant for everyone, however if you do enjoy some serious fiction, then this is it for you.

Here are some quotes to give you an idea of his writing:

“It seems people spend the majority of their lives believing they’re dying, with the only consolation being that at one point they get to be right. ”

“Irony is the hardest addiction of all. Forget heroin. Just try giving up irony, the deep-down need to mean two things at once, to be in two places at once, not to be there for the catastrophe of a fixed meaning.”

“Perhaps all of his problems arose from using the wrong vocabulary, he thought, with a brief flush of excitement that enabled him to throw aside the bedcovers and contemplate getting up. He moved in a world in which the word “charity”, like a beautiful woman shadowed by her jealous husband, was invariably qualified by the words “lunch”, “committee”, or “ball”. “Compassion” nobody had any time for, whereas “leniency” made frequent appearances in the form of complaints about short prison sentences. Still, he knew that his difficulties were more fundamental than that.”