I will be completely honest for my reason to pick up the book Rafflesia: The Banished Princess by Gautam. I was yearning to read a fantasy novel and the jacket, blurb and title of the book indicated that it could be a fantasy novel where the lead character Appu travels from his world to her world much like the movie John Carter. But….
Rafflesia: The Banished Princess is nothing that sort. It is the story of an extremely reserved man Appu who always holds his feelings and emotions and rarely confines in anyone. He rarely reacts to any adverse or favorable situations. Though there is storm boiling inside him but there is serenity on his face. People are easily mesmerized by him. Appu goes through many ups and downs, mostly downs in his life. People who somehow manages to come close to him always longs that Appu share his feelings with them. But it seldom happens.
If the author has specially written Appu’s character to beat the frustration out of the readers then I must congratulate Gautam, you have done it. I was irritated with the character Appu. I just couldn’t manage to peep into his mind and heart. He is a mysterious character and due to him there is a tinge of mystery and secrecy in the novel. But somehow I loved him.
I personally found myself in the shoes of Rahul, Appu’s soul mate, his best friend. As there is a Appu in my life as well, my husband. He is also just like Appu and it took years of hard work before he opened up to me which he rarely does. People like Appu, my husband are rare to find and are gems but still it is difficult to live with such people as one might easily hurt them without knowing. I seriously feel that Newton’s third law every action has a reaction doesn’t apply on such people.
The story is full of characters or rather it is overcrowded. In every chapter a new character has been introduced and after a while it became difficult for me to keep a track of them. The author, in detail, describes the new character and relates his or her story to Appu’s story and then that character whisked away. So there are many sub plots in the story linked to the main story, that is of Appu.
But then it seems to be the demand of the story. The author underplays the lead character. It is through secondary and other characters that some lights were shed on Appu’s character. This provided a lot of depth to the secondary characters. Mostly all the characters are relatable. I specially loved the characters of Rahul, Vijayan, Trina, Aga Ali, Misha and Sujata.
Emotions were the soul of the novel. Appu seldom expressed. But whenever he did it was melancholy. It was difficult to stop tears from flowing. His divorce signing episode, Ambala’s death, Rahul’s suicide left me misty eyed. These chapters were really well written. There were happy moments as well. Appu’s relation with an elderly Aga Ali whom he called Naanujaan was lovely to read.
And of course admist of all this comes the fairy tale story of Rafflesia: The Banished Princess. I just loved the fairy tale and was tactfully introduced into the story line.
Since Appu is not an expressive character, conversation were scarce. It was mostly narrative which jumps forth and back. Present and past story runs in parallel. The author has a special liking for description. He kept on describing the Guwahati city for two or more pages. I was amused to read initially but then it became boring. Too much of the description results in sluggish narrative which happened quite a few time in the novel. The novel really lacked the pace and dragged many a times. Plotting could have been more energetic to provide pace to the narrative.
I was also not happy with the end. At least Appu should have found a soul mate. I kept thinking Ghazal will be the one. But nothing as such happened.
Bringing out story of a reserved and silent character like Appu was no easy task. The author has done it brilliantly through the other characters of his book. The book stands out due to his unique writing style.
Appu’s relation with every character and friendship was heartwarming to read. One will yearn to have such friends in life.
It’s worth a read but don’t expect it to be a fantasy novel.