- Hardcover: 262 pages
- Publisher: Aleph Book Company (20 August 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9387561410
- ISBN-13: 978-9387561410
- Package Dimensions: 22.3 x 14.7 x 2.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Town that Laughed: A Novel Hardcover – 20 Aug 2018
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About the Author
MANU BHATTATHIRI is a Keralite settled in Bengaluru. He has worked as an advertising copywriter, a journalist and a college lecturer. At present he co-owns a small advertising agency. His previous book, Savithri's Special Room and Other Stories, was widely praised and shortlisted for numerous awards. The Town That Laughed is his first novel.
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Some characters have been developed in detail even with backstories and some are superficial. But that did not discourage me from the book, but I kept reading it. I loved Priya, she was like a breath of fresh air and also Mrs Paachu, Sharada.
The pace is slow and the stories in the book can be read as a standalone as well as in continuation with one another. They are like episodes of different TV series. They are about family relationships, friendships. This book reminded me of Malgudi days.
Set in the imaginary town of Karuthupuzha (literally: the black river) somewhere in the south of India, this delightful collection of stories brings together an eccentric cast of characters. From a philosophical thief to a stingy trader to a sly godman, the men and women who appear in these pages are mired in the everyday rhythms of life. But in their ordinary adventures lies the promise of the extraordinary and the incredible.
Told in a fresh new voice that is wry yet humane, this story is very much like R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi stories, full of life’s little ironies and delicate wisdom.
Bhattahiri depicts the lives of people who live in Karuthupuzha, their problems, their struggles, their happiness and so forth. So what we see in Karuthupuzha is gripping, it is authentic and one relates to it. Even though it is common to call Karuthupuzha an imaginary town, you will not feel it is imaginary while reading the book. You can trace it to any village in south India. The story carries the scent and sounds of these villages and you instantly blend into the situations in the stories. You will feel as though you are the character in the story yourself and that is the secret behind the success of this immensely popular book.
Rather than revolving around a particular plot, the story wanders off dreamily. The story describes the relationship between members in a family, the various social taboos prevalent in the mid-nineties. The story deals with the most ordinary men and women and that makes this story extraordinary. The story deals with simple people and simple issues they are faced with in real life. The story instantly establishes a connection between the reader and the characters. Anyway, I can dare to say that once you read these story the memories will last you for your lifetime. You will carry it to the grave!
Indian villages which are often depicted as poverty-ridden, infested with epidemics, occupied by good for nothing illiterate fellow have another side to them. They have a charm, a charm which I cannot explain. This charm is depicted and presented in each of the stories in this book. Each story is so full of humanity and will invoke that part of you which you have forgotten in this deplorable rat chase called life.
And so, if you have read Savithri’s Special Room, you will be glad to know the only bus servicing Karuthupuzha has been freshly painted. “The bright new coat of paint came after numerous meetings of the municipal council, urgent letters, strings being pulled, the political muscle being flexed, and even some secret bribes paid out of town funds’. Pachu Yeman, the representative of the Law in town and a law unto himself, is now retired, although his “arrogant tuft” still has behavioural issues which can be tamed only by Barber Sureshan. And as “the change sweeping through Karuthupuzha” goes “beyond its human populace”, the once-barren jackfruit tree has “started to bear fruit…after centuries of an incredibly useless existence”.
It is clear that Karuthupuzha is no Malgudi, despite the “broad climate of inherited culture” that Bhattathiri shares with R.K. Narayan. Yet, if the former accepts sadness as an inevitable part of the human condition, despair is never its top note; optimism, underscored by humour, is.
Where the author truly excels, however, is in his characterisation. Every cameo in this bittersweet novel is memorable, every portrait thoughtfully layered and supported by a credible backstory. Even nature is delightfully personified. Bhattathiri’s special affinity for children shines forth in his endearing depiction of the innocent yet precocious Priya. Even his least appealing characters, like the brutish Bubru, have reasons for being the way they are.
As for Priya, this engagingly spunky kid is so full of promise that we find ourselves hoping she’ll be back in a sequel, and counting on Bhattathiri to ensure, as Paachu declares in another context, that for all life’s sombre moments, “there is laughter in the end”.
“Everyone and every simple thing interested me greatly,” he would observe.
It is, in fact, this newfound spirit of enquiry, enhanced by the author’s insight into people, his wicked sense of humour, and a wisdom beyond his years, that enriches Bhattathiri’s second literary work and makes it a truly compelling read.