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Friday, December 16, 2016

India Was One--A Cautionary Tale For Divided Nations

I apologize for being late with this review.  I promised the anonymous author a review in October, but blog tours and commitments to publishers over the last two months made it impossible for me to read and review India Was One until now.  I purchased the book on Amazon some time ago, but when I read books on my Kindle, they are almost always books that I've been asked to review by authors, publishers or promoters.  When the author contacted me on Goodreads and requested a review more recently, I put it on my priority list.

First, I need to explain that this isn't historical fiction about the partition of India and Pakistan by the British in 1947.   It's contemporary fiction taking place in current day India and the U.S.


I often discuss genre in books. India Was One straddles two genres.  The first 75% is a romance dealing with the relationship of Jai and Kaahi, the two protagonists.  The last 25% is a powerful thriller type plot dealing with how Jai and Kaahi are separated in a divided India.  Actually, there is a sub-genre of romance called romantic thriller.  This book could fit into that sub-genre.   Given the predominance of romance in the content that would be the best solution.

Unfortunately, the title and cover are marketing the novel to the wrong audience.   The audience segment that prefers their thrillers without romance is complaining about it in their Goodreads reviews.  Marketing for a romantic thriller novel could display the characters on the cover with barbed wire between them, and have a title which indicates that it focuses on them.  The new title could be something like Jai and Kaahi: Two Lovers Divided.   The cover and title are important signals about the content.   An Indian should consider what signals he wants to broadcoast to the book buying public. 

Now I'd like to address the Hindi vocabulary problem.  Books with a significant number of words from languages other than the main language of the text should  have glossaries.  So instead of bogging the story down with Hindi script followed by the English transliteration and the English definition, the transliteration alone could be included in the text.  Then readers could look it up in the glossary where they would find other information about these words if they're so inclined.  Most people associate glossaries with print books.  Yet glossaries can actually be facilitated in digital format by hyperlinking the words in the text to their definitions in the glossary.  This means that readers can go directly to the word in the glossary and then hit the back button to resume reading without losing their place.  The first time I saw this in a novel in e-book format it was Freedom of the Monsoon by Malika Gandhi, an excellent historical novel about the Quit India movement.   I reviewed it on my previous blog here

Although I learned a great deal about India from India Was One that did interest me, I would have preferred less cricket content.   I understand that cricket is culturally important in India, but I would still have liked to read less about the details.   Since I enjoy reading about martial arts and karate in particular, I would have loved to switch out pages about cricket for additional pages about Jai's participation in karate.   Indian readers of this novel would probably disagree with me.  To each their own.

I noticed that Kaahi was opposed to the violence of karate.  It wasn't until I learned that she was a Jain relatively late in this novel, that it made sense.  I had read about the Jain devotion to non-violence in other books.   Then it occurred to me that Jai must not have known that Kaahi was a Jain, or he wouldn't have invited her to watch karate.  This implies that religion isn't that important to Jai, or he would have discussed religious beliefs with her earlier in the relationship.  Sports seem to  play the role of religion in Jai's life.  I have encountered men for whom this is true, so I find it believable that Jai and other male characters in this book lead such sports centered lives.

The last quarter of the novel makes it more significant.  The theme of divided countries is of urgent importance for our current world. Many countries, including my own, are extremely troubled by ideological, economic and religious divisions.   If people believe that they can't live together in peace, then countries may splinter like North India and South India in  India Was One.  That last 25% of this book shows readers how this unwillingness to deal with diversity can have terrible impact.  Our world is in the process of imploding along its fracture lines.  Learning how to co-exist with differences is the most paramount priority of our time.




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