Thursday, 28 January 2016

Marred by Stilted Language: Skylines by Neelam Saxena Chandra

Skylines by Neelam Saxena Chandra is a collection of 14 short stories narrating simple stories from daily lives of an average Indian woman. They are tales celebrating the grit, determination, strength and fortitude of a woman.

The stories per se are not innovative or exceptional. In fact, many are clichéd and predictable. The only stories that I could bring myself to like were Time’s Wounds and Acts of Despicability. Lessons in Prudence could have been better written to bring out the pathos of the mother. Facets of Love, The Bolted Fortitude and The Shimmering Sun also have potential for pathos that has been missed because of the story being crammed with action rather than add a bit of description and pathos. The Conquest was really bad. Many of the stories weren’t coherent in the time-space: for example, Love Knows No Bounds went so abruptly from past to present to past to present that I couldn’t follow the narrative until almost the end.

The writing is riddled with Indianisms in language — my pet peeve in this book being the use of “expired” for dead: a word I think is highly inappropriate considering that a person is not a batch of medicine to reach expiry date. Another one is “stated” for said (or another flowery synonym): this is too press-release-y and formal to flow with the content.

The stories are action-driven rather than narration-driven. The narration moves from action to action, helping the story move forward, but this prevents us from sympathising with the characters or situations. I could not identify with or invest in any character because of this.

The author also tends to wind up stories with explanations or preaching — as in the first story The Three Men in Her Life  —  instead of leaving it to the reader to understand.

The dialogues are stilted and don’t flow smoothly. Overall, a certain archaicness in the language mars the complete enjoyment of the stories. If the author can rid herself of the influence of the vernacular and introduce a little bit of poignancy into her narrative, she can produce great results.
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