I was sent a copy of “Shoes of the Dead” and asked to review it, and so let me start this review by saying a big thank you to blogadda.com. Thanks to them I have just read a fabulous book, and have discovered Kota Neelima, an author who is an amazingly talented writer and story teller.
This novel is a piece of committed, erudite and yet 100% gripping writing about the contemporary political and social scene in India. Ms Neelima explores with equal skill and dexterity the corridors of power in Delhi and the ground realities of the tragic, ongoing phenomenon in India of farmers’ suicides.
With poverty-driven suicides as the central topic of the novel, “Shoes of the Dead” is never going to be a light fluffy read. Instead it is robust, riveting and heart-breaking at times.
(Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the plot).
You are engaged from the opening page, as you are led deeper and deeper into the web of political machinations that try to extract self-serving political benefit from the deaths of desperate men. The author clearly knows her way through the bureaucracy and the murky world of politics in India, and the quality of her writing and story telling bears this out. What is impressive is that her descriptions of life in the rural cotton belt of Mityala district are every bit as compelling.
The narrative moves seamlessly between the manicured lawns of grave and favour Lutyens bungalows in New Delhi and, in stark contrast, the parched infertile farm land of what she terms “South Central India”
What I especially liked about Ms Neelima’s writing is that she never once reduces any of her characters to a stereotype, even though they are all there – the political Mr Fix It, the son with a sense of deep entitlement, the ruthless moneylender, the honest farmer. In the hands of a less gifted writer, these men might have become 2 dimensional stereotypes, but in Ms Neelima’s skilful hands, they leap from the page, fully fleshed out, believable characters.
I loved the book, was deeply moved by the ending (which I absolutely didn’t see coming) and as an exposé of the manipulation of well-intentioned poverty alleviation schemes, “The Shoes of the Dead” cannot be bettered.
Ms Neelima’s writing is elegant and a pleasure to read :
She has her finger firmly on the pulse of contemporary Delhi, sharing with her readers the incongruous sight of unbelievably expensive cars staying in low gear because of the mind-numbing traffic. Just this last week, this reviewer saw a bright orange Lamborghini stuck in the mother of all traffic jams for such a long time that everyone (reviewer included) was hopping out of their equally immobile cars to take photos of said OTT car.
The writer observes the manipulative, cynical workings of the New Delhi political machine with cool insight :
And she is equally eloquent about the dashed hopes of those born into poverty :
Her description of desperately poor patients waiting at a government hospital is moving in its sadness :
Published in 2013 by Rainlight by Rupa, the nice looking hardback is priced at Rs 495.
As I said earlier in this review, the ending took me by surprise, and I closed the book both sadder and wiser. This is a well written, good read. What are you waiting for ?
You can buy the book right now, by clicking on one of the links below :