Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Review of “Flirting in Good Faith” by Gaurav Narang

(This is the first time I am reviewing a book and what better way to start than with my wingmate, Gaurav Narang's bestselling novel)

Lately there have been a surfeit of MBA turned authors writing about their college days and while best selling author Gaurav Narang has similar credentials and more, his debut novel “Flirting in Good Faith” is more a story about the basic and universal emotion of love rather than the much heard tale about life in the hallowed educational institutions of India.

The book is about a small town boy Satyam and his journey through engineering and MBA colleges and his complicated love life. Satyam falls in love with a girl called Anisha while in engineering college and although they become the best of friends, he is unable to properly express his love for her. When college ends, Satyam and Anisha go their separate ways in life, with Saytam eventually joining IIM Calcutta after 1 year of working in Bangalore and Noida. In this period he befriends another girl called Zora, primarily to create a distraction from Anisha. Zora falls for Satyam, but he is unable to reciprocate her feelings as he still loves Anisha.

In IIM Calcutta, Satyam struggles academically, failing a paper every term and is branded a failure. He gets back in touch in Anisha after more than a year and learns that she is marrying a guy called Martin. The rest of the story is full of melodrama with Zora attempting suicide because of unreciprocated love, Satyam getting chucked out of the college and Anisha realizing that she also loves Satyam and then breaking her marriage to be with Satyam even as she is pregnant with Martin’s child.

The story is essentially a love story but as a reader I could not feel any sort of empathy or emotional connect with any of the characters; nor was I drawn into the vortex of the situation or dilemma faced by the characters. College life stories generally thrive on their humor quotient but the book fails to deliver in this regard as well; if there was some humor, it was frankly lost on me.

The narration of the story is also slightly disconcerting with paragraphs repeatedly running into multiple pages; also the primary medium of conversation between the characters is Google Talk chats and at times it is difficult to decipher who is saying what.

Although the book is primarily not about Satyam’s experience in IIM Calcutta, Narang’s portrayal of IIM Calcutta leaves me complaining as it is only restricted to the natural beauty of the campus and the cut throat competition in academics and placements. I am aggrieved at the fact that he does not delve into the best things the college has to offer: the amalgamation of uniquely talented and brilliant people (and I am not talking academics here), the sense of camaraderie and friendship, especially within each wing and last but not the least footer volley (Satyam watches the game being played but never participates) and bakar on IP.

The book is also a litany of grammatical mistakes and also a smack (with a thud) on the face of conventional wisdom regarding sentence construction. While the former should be addressable with better editing, the second I think is more intentional wherein Narang plays to lowest common denominator with his expression of raw emotion. Let me quote in good faith some of the most remarkable passages from this book:

"I Love you." I told her again in a plain voice bereft of any emotions. Emotions dilute facts. When stating a fact one need not be emotional. I loved her and that was a fact which I repeated in a calm voice. Long silence ensued which was broken by a loud thud; the voice of someone’s hand against someone’s cheek, Anisha’s hand and my cheek.

and then again

It is hard to describe that expression but it was that sort of mixed emotion you feel when you pat your dog to demonstrate your affection for him and he in turns raises his leg to show his affection for you and then you shoo him away before he is done. Her reaction made me feel definitely like that dog.

(Contrary to what readers of this blog might think, the "in turns" is not a typo on my part but produced verbatim from the book.)

Narang is also guilty of using almost every cliché in the book such as one needing to do an MBA to open one’s own firm, to using hackneyed expressions like “Only constant is change” and “I love you, I love you not” as titles for different sections of the book and the characters of the opposite sex almost always addressing each other as “dear”.

My complaints nonetheless, the book is remarkable as a debut novel for the simple fact that it catapults Narang to the levels of Amitava Ghosh and Khaled Hosseini (Narang has actually left behind these also-rans in the bestseller list). In fact one need not read more than 2 pages to start appreciating the auteur and his brilliant work. The publisher effusively praises the “high quality fiction” and is surely referring to Narang when he says that what India needs is

“unconventional young adults who have moral courage, vision, perseverance, virtue and who are not bound by traditional ways and who are highly motivated to do their best.”

Touché, Mr. Publisher.


Blogger Captain Subtext said...

This was a well-deserved ode to “unconventional young adults who have moral courage, vision, perseverance, virtue and who are not bound by traditional ways and who are highly motivated to do their best.”

What if the author didn't get the Lux Perfect Bride, he did write the Dettol Perfect Novel.

August 2, 2010 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Nasal Crooner said...

gotta read this now :P

August 2, 2010 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Kabuliwallah said...

I can pay 10 for the book, And 1000 for it's review!

August 2, 2010 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Abhishek Ghosh said...

A good review and an honest one...
Lovely to see that despite being a wing-mate, the write of the blog didnt get his opinion opinionated..

Book review captures all the facets and hence complete.
Looking forward to the next blog.

August 2, 2010 at 1:04 PM  
Anonymous said...

Good too are catapulted into the league of people who read through that book :)...

August 2, 2010 at 3:34 PM  
Anonymous dugato said...

I pity thee

August 3, 2010 at 6:26 AM  
Blogger FatBoySlim said...

@Kabuliwallah: please care to identify yourself. Given my limited readership, I need to cultivate admirers like you.

August 3, 2010 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Soup said...

That's a nice review. But I disagree on a few things in it like not being able to connect. I was able to connect pretty well to the book and by the end of it you indeed have second thoughts about a lot of things of some decisions in life. It shows the emotions, ego, indecisiveness and finally the frustration that leads to taking certain decisions in life.

The female chain of thoughts, the way Anisha changes her decisions have been portrayed well too.

Somehow I managed to finish the book at a stretch in a day and wished there was more to read. Hope to read another one from you soon Gaurav! Cheers!

September 27, 2010 at 5:09 AM  

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