Thursday, May 13
Book Name: Queen of Dreams
Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Publisher: Penguin(the copy i read was published by Abacus)
Genre : Fiction
Chitra Banerjee's book ,Queen of the dreams is deeply unsettling..There are no other words to describe the eerie feeling that shrouds me after i finish the book..
I got hooked on to her writing after Palace of Illusions and picked this one up by chance. The themes might be different,but the writing style is just the same.The same flowery language and the poetic narration with rich visual imagery that i found in Palace of Illusions is there in Queen of Dreams.
Rakhi is a single mother,a struggling artist and a cafe-owner living in Northern California, trying to make sense of her life.She has ambivalent feelings about most people in her life ,especially her ex-husband and her mother. Her mother is a dream interpreter who interprets dreams for other people and helps them face their fears .To Rakhi, her mother is an enigma.She craves to know more about her and be an interpreter like her mother,but fate has other plans. Rakhi isn't given the gift of seeing people's dreams.Chitra brilliantly chronicles the angst -ridden thoughts that plague Rakhi and surprises us with observations on human emotions.The narrative switches between Rakhi's point of view,a third person's point of view and the dream journals written by Rakhi's mother.
Rakhi's life gets complicated with the arrival of a new cafe opposite their shop.The manager of the cafe is out to obliterate them..Her mother passes away in a freak accident and everything changes around her.How Rakhi,her father and her friends save the cafe and Rakhi comes to terms with her life and her dysfunctional relationships with her ex-husband and her father forms the rest of the plot.The backdrop of September 11 attacks and the persecution of Sikhs and Indians that followed after the attacks have been used to weave the story.Of course,the book has a happy ending .But somehow as i finished the book, a sense of incompleteness lingered on. There were so many questions that i didn't find answers to.Like the significance of dream time and why Rakhi's mother decided to die.
Queen of Dreams is immigrant fiction at it's best and i loved the way Chitra has woven stories within the main story line. Fables about dreams and Indian kings lend to the effectiveness of the book. In fact,i thought that was the best part of the book.It gave an almost other-worldly feel to the story.Nothing about the book is luke-warm.It elicits a strong reaction.Also,the narrative serenades and takes it's sweet little time to build up to a crescendo.The pace is languorous at the best times and let's you savor the lovely words Chitra conjures up for you.Every single paragraph is lush with beautiful poetic words and similes and metaphors.You wouldn't want to finish the book fast.You would want to read and re-read every line to derive more sensory pleasure from the exercise.
Plot-wise i didn't think it was path breaking ,but the execution is so masterful that only someone as talented as Chitra Banerjee could have pulled it off with such a panache and flourish.
A beautiful book that get a 3.5/5 from me.I am not giving it a 4 only because i found Palace of Illusions better and i had given a 4 for that book. A must-read for all Chitra ji's fans.