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Dangle, a debut novel by Sutapa Basu is a splendidly crafted psychological fiction, which will grab you and make you sit through till the end.
“You know, life is always a dangle! Between now or never; between this and that ; between being and not being ; life is how you see it, do it, take it”.
The book, with an alluring blue cover, title tilted upside down and ace author Amish Tripathi penning a few words of praise, will seduce you to open and start reading it without wasting a single moment. This debut novel of Sutapa Basu has every ingredient to be a pot boiler. Let us look at what it is about.
Dangle is essentially psychological fiction as also a travelogue that spins around Ipshita Sen, a travel chat show host based in Delhi. The life of vivacious globetrotter Ipshita is in trouble. She is dangling between her past and present, in between good and bad, and most importantly rage and peace in her life.
The physical abuse she has suffered in the past haunts her, keeping her mind in turmoil. She hates men and marriage, yet finds herself sexually vulnerable when she encounters desirable men. Eventually, Ipshita’s life comes to an irreversible brink, when she comes face to face with some astounding revelations about her own psychological problems and hallucinations.
Whether Ipshita will ever be able to clear up this mess or will live with it all her life, is what Dangle is all about. Well supported by a host of other characters, this novel takes us through the various layers of human mind tangled with emotions, sometimes difficult to assimilate and understand. The storyline is delightfully intriguing with generous dollops of travel escapades sprinkled all over. Dangle does make you think more about life and its banalities in a larger perspective with the turn of every single page.
Sutapa Basu makes no mistake in sketching relatable characters. A Bengali household and its idiosyncrasies are a jolly good read. The relationship between Brigadier Sen and his loving wife Siuli, Adi, the quintessential lover boy, the loathsome and imperious Col. Vikram Chowdhury, even minor characters – all are well crafted and relatable. The protagonist Ipshita is painted with complexities and vulnerabilities stuffed under a svelte soul.
There are some points which jarred, though, like certain actions and decisions of Brigadier Sen, like when he does not stand up for his daughters to seek justice for them, and the way he feels the need to reconcile with Vikram Chowdhury, even after his horrifying actions. A bit of disappointment with the author and the narrative there.
Dangle takes off with a jerk. The first two chapters wobble precariously. But onto the third, and the narrative warms up to you. And, slowly and steadily it cruises never to slide again. The author is on top of it, with total control of the narrative. It is vivid, animated and convincing, which will hold your attention tight till the very end. With every incident, you come a notch closer to the characters. You smile at Siuli’s motherly charm, cringe every time Ipshita laments helplessly, feel enraged at Col. Vikram for his barbarism, feel spooky with Amar Seth’s text messages and feel loved with Adi around.
Sutapa Basu weaves her narration with such finesse, that you not just read, but start living their lives inadvertently with every shade of emotion touching you intensely. Turning pages was never so easy before! Along with this what works best in the narrative is the cliffhanger that Sutapa Basu ends each chapter with.
Dangle is no literary extravaganza. But in terms of language, it is almost perfect. The diction and subtle use of metaphorical language amalgamates beautifully with the texture of the story. It is effortless, smooth, sublime, yet enormously effective. The author plies her craft with such ease and dexterity that it makes the the whole story come alive. It is anything but contrived, and I would say that language is the biggest hallmark of Dangle.
Cannot move ahead without a mention of Ms. Basu’s travel escapades. Her junkets give Dangle a new dimension. Commendable research and amazing detailing makes it an engaging read – much of it comess from her personal travels. However, her Indian sojourns are more exciting, illustrated and alive than the overseas ones. I would not be surprised to see Ms. Basu toying with a full fledged travel story in days to come.
Having said this, there is an area that could have been a shade better. The editing could have been a bit better to make the narrative more crisp, as also the change of scene and space in quite a few places, which feels a bit abrupt and sudden.
If you are looking for a light hearted, yet ‘edge of the seat’ story, choose Dangle. You are most likely to skip a beat, bite your nails, smile, blush and sob…all at the same time.
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Published here earlier.
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