• BOOK REVIEW •
Shreya Sen-Handley’s latest fiction Strange displays the author’s literary flair and piques the reader’s imagination in a collection of bizarre and gripping short stories with unconventional storylines which promises to gradually grow on the readers, haunt and force them into experiencing offbeat pattern of thoughts, writes GARGI BAGCHI.
STRANGE by Shreya Sen-Handley
Contemporary fiction has always fascinated me and with a title like Strange etched on an eerie green and purple cover page, I knew I was in for some “out of the ordinary treat”.
Strange by Shreya Sen-Handley does live up to its name. It is a collection of 13 bizarre and gripping short stories – however, certainly not for the faint-hearted looking for a regular one-time breezy read.
It’s a collection that promises to gradually grow on you, haunt you (not in the supernatural or spooky sense though) – forcing you to experience (and savor) unconventional pattern of thoughts, long after you are done reading.
Each story is one of it’s kind, dealing with a unique theme and emotion; characters are diverse and multidimensional.
However, one common thread that binds all stories is the quirkiness, the unconventional storyline for each and Shreya’s powerful ability to delve into her characters’ psyche.
In ‘Full Circle’, we witness a biracial (Indian and British ancestry) girl’s confusion and discomfiture as she tries to partake in her mom’s (Indian – Bengali) side of the family festivities, the unusual camaraderie she shares with her mom and the latter caught in the exact emotional maelstrom.
Then there’s another tale of a man who suffers from a compulsion of stealing office stationeries.
In ‘Lean on Me’, we come across a mature love story blossoming between a disabled poet and his caregiver wherein we anticipate a happy ending – we are jolted out of our reverie when the seemingly innocuous characterization of the poet acquires dark undertones towards the end.
Shreya’s literary flair, without being ostentatious is remarkable. Added to it is her ability to pique the reader’s imagination wherein she allows room for individual interpretations – the trademark of a good short storyteller.
‘The lust list’ is a complex and intriguing tale of a seemingly contented woman married for two decades, whose husband out of the blue, puts forward the idea of an “open relationship”. The woman who hitherto thought her marriage was perhaps normal and perfect, for the first time could realize the monotony that had plagued their two decades of companionship. Was the husband covering up for his past infidelity?
It is for a us to reflect upon the answers to these questions.
Is it a commentary on the age-old institution of marriage and its relevance today in the urban society? Is a monogamous commitment in a marriage contract an overrated idea?
The collection is certainly meant for avant-garde’ readers, to be relished at a leisurely pace, literally devouring every word in order to enjoy the journey.
Finally, I would love to revisit the entire collection after a hiatus, and I am sure I would see the stories in a newer light and have fresh interpretations and perspectives to share.
|Publisher||Harper Collins, 2019|
GARGI BAGCHI, a writer for over a decade, has written in different media, freelanced for individual clients and multiple companies across the globe. She is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, skilled in social media management. A stay at home mom living in Johannesburg, South Africa, Gargi loves to rustle up gastronomic delights during her spare time. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org