5 December 2017
Review: Pictures have been a way of chronicling the growth of mankind. Pictures have, throughout history, made impressions that have far exceeded their own existences as mere portraits or photographs. The Mona Lisa, anyone?
Through The Mist (TTM) is a book that draws on the power of a single photograph. The book’s cover (above) shows an image that has been used as inspiration for the five stories, by as many writers, featured in the book. The interesting thing is that all five of them collaborated on each of the stories. The authors are – Nimitha, Abirami, Adhithya, Rupali and Sona. The hyperlinks here are the links to their blogs.
It can be intriguing as to the ways in which interpretations can differ from person to person. Thus, while the opening story has a middle-class trip to the hillside, with a romantic plot or two thrown in, the third story is a reminiscence of the past, of a life lived and spent longing for the beloved. It is not a coincidence that I was reminded of these two stories while mentioning the differences in interpretation. The two are also, without doubt, the top two stories here in terms of impact. With five people working on every single story, achieving a cohesion of vision as well as making sure that each character is unique can be a big ask. But in the stories mentioned above, the flow, the voices of the various characters, the multiple-authors-and-confusing-idiosyncrasies that having multiple authors on a single story can bring, all achieve delicate balances.
The other three stories also have wildly differing takes on the picture. The second story has fantasy elements, with a mindbending twist thrown in; the fourth story talks of the pain of having lost a loved one. The fifth one takes yet another turn and shows us a person who is at the older end of the spectrum of life and fighting to stay in the game that belongs to the younger lot.
A quirky thing is that while the main protagonist of each of the first two stories is a woman, the next three all have men, of different ages, as their leads, despite all five authors being women themselves. In fact, in the whole team behind the book, only the publisher (and photographer) is a male, Mr. Jithin. While there’s no rule stopping them from doing this, it did feel intriguing to me. Partly because of the fact that all five are making their debuts. But, in taking up stories that peer into the mindset of the opposite gender, they show remarkable maturity and understanding. Kudos to the whole team, including the editor Aadhira, for the exemplary work.
Also, the ages of the protagonists make an interesting curve themselves. They start with a person in her early-to-mid 20s and then go down before, once again, picking the upward curve.
The stories explore themes of love, longing, loss and determination, among others. They pick up random events as variations on the photograph and make them something far more impactful, laying before us the joys and pains that a single image, one single shot, can cause to the viewer, because of what s/he has gone through in her lifetime. Nowhere is it clearer than in the final story, where an aged fisherman is fighting against Father Time and the sea, with the hill of the image providing the literal knockabout in his journey.
To conclude, although I do think that the stories could have benefitted from a couple of rewrites each, for a debut work, they hold great variety and promise for the authors.
Verdict: Through The Mist is an intriguing collection of stories that holds immense promise for the storytelling abilities of its authors.
Genre: Fiction, Travel, Mystery, Romance, Drama, Short Story, Anthology.
Thanks for reading.