Enchanting accounts of endearment

Book: The Nine Chambered Heart
Author: Janice Pariat
Price: Rs 399
Publisher: HarperCollins
“Perhaps it’s the only way to retain it. Love. To never have it happen. To love, otherwise, is always to lose. And isn’t it true? That one imagined kiss is worth a thousand real ones.”
A writer falls in love a hundred times… And author Janice Pariat proves it through her book ‘The Nine Chambered Heart’, as she quotes American novelist Anais Nin, “It is easy to love and there are so many ways to do it.” The novel recounts tales of nine individuals who were in love or had been loved by the same woman.
As the nine anonymous individuals recall their time spent with the unnamed protagonist in nameless but familiar cities across the world, the author takes her readers on a mind journey through her protagonist’s life. Very much like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the book narrates the story of various phases of a woman’s life, through the eyes of her lovers.
The novel compiles varying perspectives of the characters building up the woman in the mind of a reader by bits and pieces, as with every chapter the character seems to step towards the spotlight. But the author weaves her magic through words and insights nullifying the absorbed perceptions at times making the reader rediscover her.
There are times when hope blooms in the mind through the personal accounts of several incidents and then immediately Janice Pariat pops it like a bubble, forcing the reader to go with the flow and not ponder over what could have happened.
“It’s like arriving at an airport, isn’t it? And already imagining your departure from the place… it’s already embedded. We’re always arriving and leaving at the same time,” says one of the nameless characters brooding over separation from a loved one.
References to some favourite songs and books of the author are in abundance, helping one relate to the situations in the story. The novel talks of how impossibilities and adventure attract the mind and push one to start off a journey; how opposites attract; and most importantly how love is and always have been vastly different for people of different age, ethnicity, and perceptions.
At some point, one might as well feel that the protagonist in the novel is leading way to self-discovery, but there is no resolution, neither is there any crisis.
“And all this love will turn to friendship tinged forever – no, let’s be starkly honest, only for a while – with ‘what if’,” reads one immensely hopeful yet watchful thought snapping one back to the ground from a wandering flight of fiction.
The story does not have a proper beginning or a defining conclusion; but a series of captivating tales of desire, hope, lust and joy. Defying the basic Three Act Structure of narrative, ‘The Nine Chambered Heart’ brings together the nine scattered parts of the woman’s soul, attempting to paint a fulfilling picture. It is incomplete, yet very satisfying, just like love – the more obscure it is, the more hopeful one gets.
It is no easy job to assume someone’s persona in order to provide a personal opinion on their behalf, but Janice Pariat does exactly that. She becomes the nine lovers in her novel and lives the different lifestyles. Like a cat is believed to have nine lives, the author lives them and depicts her protagonist through the eyes of a saint, a butcher, a caretaker, an undertaker, a professor, a florist, a crusader, a lighthouse keeper and a sailor (as she had named them).
Written in lucid English, the story unfolds gradually, laced with the rapt attention of a reader as the author flawlessly associates each of her characters with the people we have come across at least for once in our lives.
It is an unputdownable novel on relationships and what pulls in or pushes away two souls. Layered with hope, sorrow, heartbreak, disappointment, and longing, ‘The Nine Chambered Heart’ is an amazing read for those who have still a lot to figure out in life, and also for those who already have…


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