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Born in the lush mountains of Dalhousie in 1930, Shakuntala is a pampered child of a wealthy builder. On her wedding night she is gifted a secret to use wisely when the time comes.
From the green valleys of Dalhousie to a village in Punjab reeling under the communal violence of 1947; from the Delhi of 1950s with its intoxicating smell of freedom to the Delhi of 1970s soaked in the hippie culture; from the Delhi of 1984 smelling of burnt tyres to the Delhi of 90s raising its Frankenstein of urbanization, the cancerous secret breathes with her, infects her. It is accidentally passed down, hidden under insecurities and jealousies, locked in its meaninglessness and leaving a trail of ruin.
When her great- grandson accidentally discovers the secret in 2065, he is perplexed by the malice that flowed in his family’s blood. Was it just the secret or his family would have destroyed itself even in its absence? Why was their love never greater than their unsaid expectations from each other?

REVIEW: False Ceilings was not at all what I expected it to be. For some reason, reading the synopsis, I was sure it was going to be magical realism. Despite being something I didn’t expect, I gave it four stars which might strike a few people as generous (if they’ve read it) but I’ll tell you why.

I love family sagas. It’s just something that I’ve always enjoyed from the time I started reading more grown up books and it’s something I usually like from a single person’s point of view. But this one has so many points of view and with so many different characters, a daunting task for any author, let alone a debut. And it surprised me with how well it was handled. There were a few places where I got confused (with the male characters) but the rest of it was brilliantly well done.

The way the story was relatable and simple without taking any moral stances and at the same time clouding the reader’s eyes with what the character feels. It felt like I was sitting and listening to my grandparents talk about their relatives. I finished the book and sat down with a smile, not because I enjoyed what the secret was. The secret really takes away from the story, it isn’t as big a deal as I thought it was going to be. I sat with a smile because I knew I was going to remember Shakuntala and Meena, but particularly Shakuntala. She was the one that we spent the most time with and she brings about the entire story.

There are negatives, I’ll just finish them off here so I can finish on a good note. Better proofreading. I noticed a few errors, a couple of sentences read rather oddly and could have been set right with a good editor. Maybe if it had been explored more deeply. This sort of story is best told in an epic fashion so when it was just 250 pages with large font, it felt a little hurried in places. Maybe a bigger publishing house would have put in more effort in presentation because the book itself feels cheap, like the fake copies you see in railway stations. Back to the good stuff.

The author very cleverly jumps between different timelines and different characters. Which is something that usually confuses me but with him I really enjoyed it. Especially as he explores why someone turns out the way they did. You can tell who is who from their thoughts alone and that consistency is hard to get in a debut author’s book. I thought he did a great job. There are some surprises in here, you’ll see. A few characters I liked and a few characters I didn’t like ended up so different from what I expected and for that, good job Mr.Sharma, you’ve surprised me. Which is what gave the book a four star rating, the great characters. Special mention to his morbid sense of humour, “With his skinless legs, he looked like a stork looking out for fish in a muddy pond.” Haha.

Realistically, if you’re a serious reader, this is a 3 star book, but if you really like these kinds of stories, it’s a 4 star. This is a quick read, perfect for the awful heat of summer.

I won this book for review as part of Reviewers Programme in The Tales Pensieve. I am a Proud Pensiever 🙂

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