An engaging collection of short stories, this is a good read. ‘The Japanese Wife’ the title of the book and the first story is definitely the best in the collection. Here is a story that talks of innocent love, transcending the physical. The love between Snehamoy, a rural schoolteacher, and Miyage, his Japanese pen friend, is touching and poignant. In ‘Snakecharmer’, Israeli business man Jacob Tsur comes to India to end his life. He meets a snakecharmer’s daughter who takes it on herself to stall it. I found ‘Long Live Imelda Marcos’ to be interesting as well, with Mary the Filipina maid’s painful story. Mary is quite a strong character, stoic, unwavering and practical. I like the way Basu has weaved the Gujarat riots into the story showing its consequences in far away Hong Kong.
‘The Accountant’ deals with rebirth and the travails of a man who wants to speak the truth that history has coloured over the years. The title of the story ‘Tiger! Tiger!’ is haunting and remniscent of Blake’s poem, ‘Tiger’. It is a story of love and betrayal, set in the Sunderbans. Despite it being a short story, Basu does well to build the lead characters, Rowena the foreigner, Anwar the poacher, Amina his wife and Captain Singh the forest officer. Rowena is caught between the paradox of right and her friendship with Anwar. Amina shows her feline side by taking a younger and virile mate and then ensures his end to maintain the pack’s customs.
As always with most such collections, the quality cannot always be consistent. Some of the stories like ‘Lotus-Dragon’, ‘Lenin’s Cafe’ and ‘Miss Annie’ are tedious and convoluted. However, it is definitely worth a dekko.