It took a book like Overwinter for me to breathe life back into my long neglected blog. That in itself is an indication of the impact of the book. Provoking, nuanced and unforgettable is how I would describe Ratika Kapur’s novel. ‘There are some things about your family that you know in your bones; you come to life with the information, and from your first breath your understanding of the world is shaped by it’. This excerpt for me is the essence of the book.
Overwinter is set in New Delhi and centres around artist Ketaki, her aunt Neera and her uncle Deepak who is in a coma. It’s a novel that centres around a family secret that is hanging in the background while the characters go around with their lives trying to deal with it. The secret means different things to each one and effects their lives depending on each one’s approach to it – one forgives, one tries to forget and one keeps the secret alive.
Ratika has amazing mastery in characterisation. I loved the way she has built her characters over the course of the novel. Of course being the centre of the novel Ketaki is well drawn out as strong-willed, unpredictable and an in-your-face kind of person. However, despite her showy bravado she is unsure, emotional and highly dependent. Neera is the mysterious one, she never really reveals what is going through her mind and that is what keeps the plot alive. One is kept waiting till the last paragraph to get a glimpse of the real Neera. Her friends Krishan and Adil stand out in this largely female dominated cast. Of these Krishan is an intriguing conundrum, who doesn’t mind hitting the sack as long as it is justified in his uncomplicated ‘traditional’ sense of right and wrong. Adil is the actual pivot in her life, having been through similar tragedies he is her support. Probably a reason for her dependence on him is that Adil doesn’t get carried away by her pushy and unpredictable streaks, he plays out at his own pace and by his own rules.
The person that engulfs the novel from start to finish is Deepak. Ratika has scored with this character. For a large part of the novel he is in a coma and doesn’t utter a single word, but his persona is created by references to him, discussions about him, memories of him that the others reveal. And yet he is one of the most fully developed characters in the novel – smart, fun, intelligent, loving, manipulating, bold and insensitive too.
My reservations? It may not go down well with the squeamish, the sex scenes are one too many and feels a bit overdone. Cut down on those between the sheet sessions and you still have a winner.
My rating 3.5 on 5. Go buy the book and read, you will take few breaks.
(Published by Hachette India)