The Winter Song was beautiful and poignant fiction, a journey of old man suffering from grief, loss and guilt with atmospheric setting of India and well portrayed layer of Substance addiction.
Many thanks to Rachel @Rachel’s Random Resources for tour invite and author for providing e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
The Winter Song by Saurav Dutt
Publication Date: December 15th 2020
Genre: General Fiction
Pages : 171
From the acclaimed Author of ‘The Butterfly Room’ comes a powerful afterlife drama conveying how great gifts can be hidden in death and how they can bear fruit in our lives if we have the faith to let them unfold.
Somewhere between the mountains and the mist in Simla, India a widower must reconcile himself to the loss and grief that haunts him after the recent death of his wife.
Unhinged by grief, anger, and guilt, John Perera has set off on a journey, a journey to honour the love of his life and to fulfil the promise he made to her to uncover the truth behind the mysterious death of their son. It is a journey of extraordinary self-discovery that will take him to the extremities of his soul and question all he believes about life, death, and faith.
The Winter Song was interesting and well written fiction that revolved around 64 yrs old John and his journey to fulfil promise he made to his wife before she died. The story was about loss, grief, guilt, regrets, family, love, and what parents had to endure on losing son at young age to substance addiction.
Writing was beautiful, descriptive and flowery with long chapters and nonsequential past and present. It was third person narrative from John’s perspective. The setting of Shimla to Spiti Valley was atmospheric and perfectly written.
It started with John losing his wife to cancer and death of their son, how he felt guilty for not loving and supporting his wife the way he should and made promise to his wife in her last moment to do something that can bring them closer and for that he would go on pilgrimage, walk from their home in Shimla to a Buddhist temple in Spiti Valley, his wife used to go before marriage.
Around 400 km, 11 hrs by car, but covering that much distance on foot at age 64, was sure insane. It was interesting to read John’s journey to see what would he discover on this pilgrimage, would he be able to fulfil it, would this journey absolve him from his guilt and regrets, or if it would bring him closer to his wife and son.
This was character driven story with main focus on guilt and regrets. I liked reading John’s journey and people he met on his way. Their life story was interesting and thought-provoking.
Past chapters gave depth to characters. It showed John’s childhood, where he grew up, how he met his wife- Asima, their interracial relationship, happy moments and where and when things slipped out of their hands, how their only son-Jimmy- got tangled in addiction and how all their attempts failed to save him at the end.
It was touching, emotional and heart-breaking to see what this old couple went through. How terrible it might be for them to see their son destroying his life and how it affected their relationship, it almost broke their marriage and then Jimmy’s death made things worst with Asima’s sudden cancer and death in just few months.
I rooted for John from the beginning. At first, I couldn’t see why his wife would blame him for failing their son but as story progressed, as I read more about his relationships with his wife, his father-in-law, and specifically his son, I could see this old man made many mistakes, didn’t handle things right, or the way he should have, how his ego, pride, and lack of emotion or rather taciturn, judgemental and idealistic nature produced chasm between him and his son and wife that no one could cross until it was too late.
For most part I felt he was evolving, coming to terms with what happened to his family, could see his mistakes, where he did wrong with hope of making peace with it at the end, but then the way he behaved with woman- who he just met on journey, was wanted to help him, make him understand his folly, who was there out of goodwill- was shocking. I could understand his wife at this point. He was complex character and I felt for him.
Layer of Substance addiction, what it causes to people, addict and his/her family was well portrayed. It was ironic how beautiful places of Himachal Pradesh that is said be home of Hindu Gods with so many temples, where people go for pilgrimage with a faith, could have ugly side, have sadhus that claim to be holly person but in reality, are agents, part of people who lived on by producing and selling drugs that is naturally available throughout the valley. It was so sad to see people coming to these places for cheap drug, leaving behind a good life and how many goes missing and nobody does anything about it.
There was also layer of modernization creeping to this valley with all the constructions site destroying natural beauty of the place. Elements of culture, religion, belief, and spirituality was woven perfectly with journey of John.
Climax was surprising. I don’t know what was I expecting but this definitely wasn’t it. Like I said I didn’t like how John was behaving at this point and I couldn’t say whether he was developing or not and that open ended end didn’t help.
Why 3.5 stars-
Last 20% of the book was weird. Until this point, I could get John and his journey and even I liked how he was slowly going towards self-realization but then that climax and what happened from that point to end made me confuse. I didn’t get it.
Some paragraphs were a bit confusing as well. In few paragraphs I felt the names were wrongly placed- I mean “John” was typed where there should be “Jimmy” and vice versa. And it sure felt longer than 171 pages!
Overall, The Winter Song was well written, emotive, and layered fiction. If you are fan of literary/general fiction, flowery writing, like theme of loss and guilt, journey to self-realization, book set in picturesque part of India, I recommend this book.
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Saurav Dutt is an Author, Political Columnist and Human Rights Campaigner. A journalist in three continents, his acclaimed debut novel ‘The Butterfly Room’ explored issues of domestic violence and homophobia within South Asian communities and has been showcased alongside leading political figures and human rights campaigners. His work for human rights and charity campaign work has taken Dutt to speaking engagements at the WEF, IKWRO, IWN, Houses of Parliament and TEDx.
After exploring the issue of psychological abuse and domestic violence in ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ Dutt was commissioned by a major Hollywood production house to pen the official novelization of the major motion picture ‘Tiger’ (starring Golden Globe winning and Academy Award nominated actor Mickey Rourke) and he commemorated the centenary of the infamous Amritsar Massacre in India with ‘Garden of Bullets: Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh’ which was featured in TIME magazine. TIGER is the biographical account of Parminder Singh Nagra, a trailblazing Sikh boxer who fought successfully for the right to compete in the ring with his beard, an essential part of his faith.
A syndicated political columnist, Dutt writes for the International Business Times, The Times of Israel, Human Events, and American Herald Tribune. He has featured on CNN, GQ, Huffington Post, Business Insider, BBC television and radio, RT (Russia Today), Press TV, Sky News, and more. He has been shortlisted several times for the Asian Achievers Awards and Asian Media Awards. He resides in the United Kingdom, Los Angeles, and India.
Social Media Links – @sd_saurav on Twitter
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