False Ceilings

I came across Amit’s writing for the first time on his blog, earlier called Mashed Musings. He excels at humour and feminist writings. After he had his daughter, his sporadic daddy journals made for some hilarious reading. But then his blogging took a backseat as he got busy with his first book, False Ceilings. The same book that I am reviewing today.

What is False Ceilings about?

This is a book you would not find many first-time writers writing. It is a complex book which is a family saga spanning generations. The book takes us through the tale of Shakuntala, a young girl, who has a dreamlike life despite some adversities in the beautiful town of pre-Independence Dalhousie when life changes completely due to a turn of events. The book takes you on a journey through her life and times, her children, grandchildren and beyond. The novel explores India of 1920s and spans to a period in the future till 2050. The tale moves ahead as India undergoes her own period of churning and evolution. The book is an epic tale about a dysfunctional family, as real as it can get and a family secret that binds them and destroys them.

What I enjoyed

Character fleshing and writing style: Amit has fleshed out the characters really well. He has taken his time in building each person’s thoughts and feelings and showing why they turned out as they did. What fascinated me is the depth he showed in exploring and creating strong and flawed women characters, the dynamics among whom carry the story forward. There are parts of the book that stun you with the accuracy with which he has got under the skin of the women’s emotions, expectations, their angsts and their struggles. The silly tiffs that spiral into larger issues. The daily struggles and the lack of equation between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in turn poisoning the lives of many others. The sensitivity of Aaryan, who gets emotionally scarred from childhood. The enthusiasm of Lipi who looks forward to happiness in life despite coming from a dysfunctional family. The fate of Kanshi Ram, the suffering of Kusum, the terror of Radha Devi, the lack of spine of Vinod who is pulled between a wife and mother, the inefficacy of Manohar and above all the baffling deterioration of Shakuntala’s character. To tell you the truth, I expected more from Shakuntala and was disappointed when it did not happen. But then as the writer pointed out, sometimes we turn into people we have detested all our lives. I also wish that there were characters who lightened the proceedings, that everyone was not so dark. But then that is the prerogative of the writer.

The research: Amit has researched his facts extensively. The story spans more than a century, a time which was very eventful in India’s history straddling India’s struggle for independence to freedom, partition, dislocation of people and events beyond right through the wars, 84 riots, Mumbai blasts and so on. He has carefully woven the doom and gloom of the events as they cast their shadow on the life of this one family. I also enjoyed reading about the transformation of Delhi and Dalhousie from tranquil towns to bustling cities.

The prose: Amit is really good with descriptions. He explores the natural beauty of both Dalhousie and Delhi graphically. He also takes care to go in depth and lead the reader through the lives, insecurities, jealousies, frailties and tumultuous emotions of his protagonists. Actually, what impressed me is his deft understanding and exploration of human psyche. His prose flows naturally, soothing at times and troubling at others as he gets under the skin of emotions and issues we normally like to sweep under the carpet. He also leaves clever questions along the way that will make you uncomfortable, will make you pause and look for their answers within. Questions we all can relate to.

For a first-time writer to attempt writing of this scale is commendable. The sheer number of characters and events is mind boggling. Also the characters are real and relatable. They are human and extremely flawed. He has brought out the dysfunctional family beautifully. I think that is how most families are under the gloss and shine. Sometimes you wonder why they can’t pull their act together, yet they can’t.

The secret is referred to in every character’s story, appearing tantalizingly and keeping you on the edge as you wait for it to reveal itself. He keeps up the suspense nicely and then ties it well with human failings.

What could be better

Better proofreading: The book would have done with better proofreading. There are many grammatical errors and typos that distract and take away from the beauty of the storytelling.

The non-linear format of storytelling: The story jumps between fast forwards and flashbacks. While, I am normally able to keep track of characters, he cleverly does not reveal who is married to whom hence you may not know that you are reading about say Shakuntala when you are reading Manohar’s story. You connect the dots much later missing out on important detail. It could be confusing to some readers. But that is just my preference. Nothing wrong per se with the writing style.

Final Thoughts:

This book is an engaging read. Its writing, characters and story are its strong points. As the story pans out across generations, it is sure to strike a chord with the reader. It is a mature human tale that must be picked up if you enjoy good writing.

False Ceilings is published by LiFi Publications. Get it on Amazonand Flipkart.

Find out more on the author’s website: http://amit-sharma.co.in

This is not a Sponsored Review.

30 Thoughts on “Book Review: False Ceilings by Amit Sharma

  1. Interesting review, Rachna 🙂 I have not heard of Amit’s blog, so will check that out when I can. I think, depending on how well the writer handles it, the non-linear timeline can be done well. It works for me on occasion but not so much otherwise. I actually like the flashing between the present and the past if it is Mythology, for instance. Maybe the genre makes a difference. Too many characters tend to put me off, to be honest, unless it’s a crime story and the more the suspects the better. But, if you say that the multiple characters have been fleshed out well and that they each occupy a good place in the book, it may be worth checking out.

    • Yes, non-linear writing can work but somehow with so many characters and the frequent time lapses, it could get a bit confusing. Yep, the characters were good. They stood out. Overall, a good effort.

  2. Your review made a good impression of book on me. Really curious to know how well the author knows about woman psychology and her feelings and is there any chance to learn the skill by reading the book? Good presentation, Rachna (y)

  3. Loved your review but now I’m confused. The book definitely sounds interesting. I love stories with lots of characters and told from various viewpoints. But bad editing.. ugh! Such a put off.

    • You should pick it up, Tulika. I blame the publishers for the errors. They really ought to do a better job at proofing before publishing. Yet, the book makes for an engaging read if you enjoy this genre.

  4. Sounds very interesting, Rachna. I like how you’ve split the review. I do remember Amit’s blog. 🙂 I’d anyway like to read this book!

  5. Thanks, Vidya. You must. I think you will like it. 🙂

  6. a book covering different generations definitely requires detailed character building, and from you review seems Amit nailed that. I have heard a lot about the book. Would try to read it this year.

  7. 🙂 Thank you

    very interesting

  8. I like the honesty of this review. I would love to read it. For me, story and characters are more important. Looks like an interesting read, a break from love stories that are flooding the market.

  9. very interesting review… it is always good to know fellow dads 🙂

    The book seems to be well penned with some interesting characters and that it is partly set up in hills and partly in Delhi makes me wonder about more details ….

  10. Thank you for reviewing my book Rachna. Your review gives me great pleasure. It is such an exhaustive piece! I am very glad that the book has connected with a lot of readers. Thank you for taking out time and doing this.

    • Thank you, Amit. I am glad you liked the review. It’s such a fantastic first book and you are on par with some of the best storytellers that I’ve read. Look forward to reading your next book. 🙂

  11. A fair and very honest review of the book Rachna! That said, I think it may be a bit of heavy reading for my taste!

  12. I really loved the format, Rachna. Very professionally done.

  13. I read a review yesterday too on this book. Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes take away the charm for me, no matter the content or standjng of the author!

    • They do for me as well, Alok. But I would still give the benefit of doubt to the author as I enjoyed the story and the storytelling. This just goes to show that lesser publishing houses don’t bother investing in proofreading which is sad for upcoming writers.

  14. The review format is just right. Loved it Rachna. You should do more of them. Clear, concise and honest.
    I have read the book and enjoyed it.

    • Thanks so much, Alka. It is very motivating that so many of you liked the format of the review and enjoyed it. Being writers we know what a tough job it is to take critique from anyone. Hence we owe it to the writer to be kind while being objective. I tried my best to do that. It is a lovely book. Thank you for your warm presence, always!

  15. Sounds interesting, though I am not too fond of non-linear narration. I have enjoyed books that are written in a non-linear timeline, but they are the exception rather than the rule. I guess it depends on the genre/writing style too.

  16. Waiting to get his book…will do soon when I am in India. 🙂

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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