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A Promise Unspoken: A Story of Second Chances | Novel | Archana Devdas |

 



Review by Dr Sapna Dogra*

 

A Promise Unspoken: A Story of Second Chances | Novel | Archana Devdas |

 

2021, INR 199

ISBN: 978-1-63832-209-2

 

A Promise Unspoken: A Story of Second Chances is the debut novel of Archana Devdas who is an architect by profession. It is a story of Maanasa and her journey towards finding a fulfilling relationship and her pursuit of independence. The blurb tells the readers that,

 

Archana Devdas is an Architect working in a MNC with a career spanning more than a decade and a half. An avid reader since childhood, books have always had a special place in her heart. Always wishing to write a story of her own creation, it is only now that she has attempted to venture into fiction writing with her first book ‘A Promise Unspoken’.

 

The title of the book immediately invites the reader to brood over promises and second chances with a hint of deceit. The book cover with a sun over the horizon of an ocean can be interpreted as a sunrise or a sunset. There is also a hint of transience.

 

Maanasa is a young architect living in Mumbai. She meets Varun, a doctor with a mysterious past who leads a lonely life. Maanasa met Varun two years ago at a cousin’s wedding and was intrigued by him. Now, after two years, they bump into each other by chance. Varun is haunted by his painful past. The plot is spelt to the readers in the blurb,

 

But he’s failed in love once before and she’s never been in love.

When two such individuals come together from different backgrounds, obviously demands and expectations rise.

At the start of their relationship, their unspoken words had promised love and commitment to each other. But when unforeseen obstacles arise in their path, will that promise act as the cement that binds them for life, or will it prove to be the crack that threatens to break them asunder.

Will his insecurities get the better of him?

Will her inexperience mislead him?

Together, will these negatives apply the force that will work to tear them apart?

 

The novel opens on a note of exhilaration of new beginnings. Born and brought up in “a very disciplined but loving household in Mumbai”, the 25 years old Maanasa readies herself to move to Kochi for work.

 

I’m anxious, at the same time exhilarated, as I’m here to begin a new job, in a new city and look forward to the experience of life away from home for the first time.

 

We are told that she began to “crave an independence that was becoming increasingly hard to find.” She goes to Kochi and begins working as a junior architect. She’s a hard-working architect, who loves to innovate,

 

That’s why, I’m so excited to be given this new opportunity. I’ve been waiting to have to go at apartment design and this project is so much more than that. It’s challenging enough to not just test my design skills, but also show how well I’m able to integrate a new layout on to an already designed structural framework. I can’t wait to start.

 

We meet Varun in the fourth chapter. He is a doctor, who approaches life with a sense of distrust. He is an emotional wreck due to a bitter experience in the past. Maanasa brings a new perspective into his life. She has an “insightful and positive way of looking at the past.” She turns out to be his emotional anchor.

 

The strength of the book is its narrative style. The novel’s narrative style is diary entries that alternate between Maanasa and Varun. We get to read their stories in their own voices without authorial intervention and get to delve deep into their minds, getting a peek into their strengths, weaknesses, fears and anxieties. The novel is set in the year 2007 and is spread across 38 chapters. Maanasa has been given more space, as 22 chapters are in her voice.

 

Since the setting of the novel is South India there are ample references to things peculiar to the region, be it food, place and people. A glossary of the meanings of Malayalam words used in the novel is provided towards the end of the book. Archana is a superb observers of small details and brings it alive in the descriptions of things, be it a room or a plate full of food. She has a good command on language and has a flair for writing.

 

The novel has its own share of flaws as well. The plot is marred by predictability. I wish the plot had a stronger conflict than Varun’s failed past love experience. It’s too clich├ęd and predictable. The book is neither a mirror of our times, not has any social commentary. Is marriage and love the only thing Maanasa cares about for her “hard won independence”? The book ends on the note, “Don't marry the one you can live with; marry the one you cannot live without.” Marriage and getting married to the person of one’s choice even for educated urban females still define ‘freedom’ for them, it is suggested. Lamentably, what began as a tale of a girl’s journey towards independence somehow loses its way and becomes yet another love story.

 

The novel also has a few formatting and editing errors. First, the book has no page numbers. It is difficult to pinpoint an exact phrase or line owing to the absence of page numbers. This is a major editing error. The book also has some proofreading errors here and there. The formatting is casual.

 

 In this tale of a couple’s journey to marriage, there’s no strong antagonist as such. Archana is imaginative but she needs to be more creative. One of the marks of creativity is originality. Original thinkers always strive for innovation. Hopefully, the writer will improve upon this. All in all, it’s a good read for those people who are looking forward to read a tale of emotional turmoil of lovers.

*Dr. Sapna Dogra completed her B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Delhi. She holds a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is presently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English in the Government College Baroh, Kangra, Himachal Pradesh University. Her research interests include Folklore Studies, Translation Studies, Indian English Writing, Hindi Literature and Popular Literature.  She can be reached at sapnardm@gmail.com