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In Your Blood I Run by Sonia Bhatnagar is a fast-paced, contemplative crime thriller that deals with myriad subjects like mystery, betrayal, love, hope, freedom and desire.
“These aren’t ordinary stories. They aren’t only about Indian women, every woman all over the world is going through the same struggle in some way or the other. I feel awful, disturbed, like it’s about me, how desperate I feel sometimes, I don’t even know what about, but it’s there in my heart somewhere, that flapping, like a bird trying to find its way out of a huge caged room, but there really is no opening it can see…”
One Line Review: A book about a dirty book and a body. Spectacularly gripping and profoundly mesmerising.
In a recent interview with the author, I asked Sonia Bhatnagar about the peculiar setting of her book. 1936, Simla, British India. The book follows Indian characters in a country breaking under colonial rule, where the liberties of the ‘natives’ were severely curtailed and monitored.
Sonia told me she was inspired by Ismat Chughtai’s work. In the story ‘Lihaaf’ (The Quilt), Ismat explored sexuality in a way hitherto unforeseen for the time. The story gained notoriety to the extent that Ismat was summoned to court. The authorities found her story obscene and provocative. Under their watchful eye and under all the duress, Ismat steadfastly refused to apologise.
Just as Lavanya Shriram, one of the primary protagonists in Sonia’s book, refuses to apologise for her story of ‘Sitara’ in the open court.
“Aren’t all stories written to provoke?” she asks.
And so, the stage is set for In Your Blood I Run, Sonia Bhatnagar’s debut novel published by Harper Collins India in January 2023.
The book opens with Ratan, a wandering law-college dropout, as he rushes towards Sara Davenport, his employer, his lover, and his friend, as she struggles to catch her last breath after being brutally stabbed by a shadowy figure. Seized by shock and grief, Ratan flees from the scene. The next day, the police find Sara’s body alongside a book written by Ratan’s childhood friend Lavanya Shriram. Inside the book is a note addressed to Ratan.
The police track down Lavanya and declare to ban her book unless she helps them find Ratan.
What’s in the book? Why do they want to ban it? How does the book tie Lavanya and Sara together? Do they find Ratan? Who killed Sara? This book answers all these questions and more!
In Your Blood I Run is a fast-paced, contemplative crime thriller that deals with myriad subjects like mystery, betrayal, love, hope, freedom and desire. Sonia has deftly woven together an out-and-out whodunnit with a sizeable sprinkling of meditative contemplation, erotica and magic realism.
Remarkably, even in a whodunnit, the author has coaxed her readers to pause and reflect. The murder mystery lifts the pace of the narrative, and the touches of magic realism and allegories slow it down and give it an almost dream-like and lyrical quality.
While the male characters are realistic, relatable and unforgettable, especially the utterly dreamy and perpetually lost, Ratan, the USP of the novel, aside from a tightly wound narrative that is both thrilling and thought-provoking, is its host of remarkable women characters.
From Lavanya, the rebel Indian writer who believes in the independence and power of the written word, to Sara, the Gora sahib Richard Davenport’s trophy wife, who carves independence for herself when faced with impossible circumstances. From Noor, Lavanya’s closest friend, her wing woman and a glamorous actress who doesn’t shy away from embracing her beauty and her standing, to Eden, Sara’s close friend and a sickly, timid and spiritless trophy wife to Richard’s friend Marc.
These characters are a combination of conformity and rebellion and thrive like living beings within the pages, leaving an indelible mark on the minds and hearts of the readers. And between these characters, almost enmeshed within their beings, is Sitara, the eternal muse, a beacon of unshackled flight.
In Your Blood I Run is an all-consuming sensual exploration of different versions of freedom. Be it the simmering struggle of a nation and its people under colonial rule or the overt rebellion of a single writer and her refusal to apologise for telling stories.
As Lavanya wonders in the book, “…if a country struggling to be free was an unfinished story too. If so, all it needed was one final act of courage, even if it was foolish courage…”
I strongly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys crime fiction and even literary fiction and to those who simply want to exalt in the company of an extremely well-written story. This book is going places!
My rating: 5/5
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Image source: the author, and book cover Amazon
Scientist and Storyteller.
I'm a dyed-in-the-wool bibliophile. My love of reading has led to my passion for writing. I write so others can find comfort and acceptance in my words, just read more...
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