Book Review: In the Land of the Lovers by Sakoon Singh

Book Name: In the Land of the Lovers

Author: Sakoon Singh

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Rupa

Rating: 5/5

Book Blurb: It evoked a feeling in her—of silence and freedom, of riding a bicycle on a dirt track cutting through fields. In the absence of her parents, Nanaki, a fiercely sensitive young woman, is brought up by her grandparents in a quaint Chandigarh neighbourhood. She grows up to be an artist and a professor in an art college. As Nanaki goes through the motions of an idyllic childhood and a difficult teenage love, her experiences play out against a haunting backdrop of Partition and her Beeji’s turbulent personal history.

Nanaki is brought face to face with the dark underbelly of contemporary Punjab when she takes up the cause of a consummate embroidery artist against a corrupt system while also being privy to the heartbreaking stories of two women in her immediate vicinity. Through it all, it is her Sufi bearings that sustain her. Meanwhile, over many motorcycle jaunts to the tiny hill-town of Kasauli, Nanaki finds love in Himmat, an architect with his own share of personal tragedy and a scarred childhood.
Meditative, rooted in location yet filtered through nostalgia, In the Land of the Lovers is a masterfully woven fable with interlocking tales that explore struggle, loss, longing and love with brilliant insight and luminous prose.

Review: Sakoon Singh’s In the Land of the Lovers explores the themes of love, longing, loss, and injustice.

“After such knowledge, what forgiveness?”

Set in contemporary Punjab, Chandigarh to be precise, the book tells the story of the protagonist Nanaki who lives with her grandparents after the demise of her parents. the entire story revolves around the life of Nanaki and is a sort of coming of age novel.

Nanaki’s growth from a frail, emotional, and young girl to a confident woman who is not afraid to take on a corrupt system makes for an interesting read.

The story is ordinary and can get a bit boring or cliched at times but the overall book stands out for its excellent language, subtle narration, and well diverse characters. It is Nanaki’s story but also engulfs a whole set of different themes while telling her story.

Sakoon Singh has a strong grasp on language and she writes well, exploring various sub-plots intricately woven into the main narrative. She can spin a good yarn and her words have a subtle poetic feel, not something every writer can manage. This is a serious work of literature and she rises to the occasion.

“Her body was coming alive in unknown ways. It was like a sleeping spirit had been stirred. A spirit that had been under a long spell, just like in the fables. And someone had decreed its liberation only with the touch of such and such.”

The Punjabi culture and the surrounding politics have been dealt with in detail. All fictional stories tend to mimic contemporary situations for it is very difficult to create something out of thin air. The hallmark of a great writer is to weave a good enough story from the base material like a sculptor does with a rugged stone. In the Land of the Lovers excels in this aspect.

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