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The Conundrum Paperback – 2017
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'The Conundrum' is a Romantic thriller revolving around the central characters of Maia and Ajay. The story is centred in Ahmedabad, Baroda and the historical city of Champaner, however many of the locales mentioned in the book are purely fictitious and evolved keeping in mind, the story itself. Several secondary but colourful characters, keep the book extremely interesting and unpredictable. Equally interesting are the twists and turns in the plot that keep the reader on the edge and the story engaging. Love, being the key emotion, keeps shifting between the characters, taking different shapes and evolves as the story moves forward. It is important to note that although a thriller, The Conundrum, changes shape and shifts from the glowing new romance between Ajay and Maia, the budding sisterhood of Maia and Neelu, the motherly love between Maia and Meena Modi, to the twisted emotions that Adi harbours for Maia. As you read through, enjoy a colourful mosaic of characters and their flaws, experience the joys of new love, and the canyons of distress and frustrations as each of the characters evolve and find their niche in the moving miniature saga that is The Conundrum.
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This is a simple story, simply told. To begin with, I liked Maia as the protagonist. She’s a modern day girl, smart and pretty and a bit of a feminist, just the way I like them. The arranged-marriage-groom-hunting was only too real and brought back such memories. The masala chai and the ‘letting the youngsters talk’ were only too familiar.
My favourite, however, were the little touches that the author included in her descriptions. The smells, the sights, the clothes - those are things that made the story come alive for me. The smell of Rajnigandha, the sight of a flaming Gulmohur, the Bouganvilla and the Banyan, the singing of bulbuls and chirping of sparrows - those are the images that stayed with me.
On the flip side, I wish the author had taken more time to build the characters, other than Maia. Given that this is a love story (according to the blurb) we didn’t get to see many glimpses from Ajay’s life and as a result couldn’t form a connection.
Also there were a host of other characters, too many of them - Nirav, Swapna, Nupur, Manan, Nitish, Nalini, Neelu. They ended up cluttering the narrative. Fewer characters with more flesh on them would perhaps have worked better for me. I would have definitely liked to know more about Nitya, her life and her struggles, given that she has such a pivotal role. The book needed to be longer.
Oh and there were easily avoidable editing errors:
‘Ringed a bell’ for ‘rang a bell’, ‘Effluent sangeet ceremony’ instead of ‘affluent ceremony’, and ‘sheer korma for sheer khurma/khorma’.
Despite all of that, this one makes for a light easy travelling companion. If there’s a sequel on the way, I’m up for it.