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Book Review – Half Girlfriend

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Chetan Bhagat (CB) is back with his first fiction title in 3 years since Revolution 2020 which came out in 2011. CB has always had a knack for numbers in all his titles and this one is no different. After Five Point Someone, One Night @ the Call Center, 3 Mistakes of My Life, 2 States, Revolution 2020, he’s come up with a somewhat uniquely titled – “Half Girlfriend”. Does it work? Let’s check it out.

The blurb goes like this –

Once upon a time, there was a Bihari boy called Madhav. He fell in love with a girl called Riya. Madhav didn’t speak English well. Riya did. Madhav wanted a relationship. Riya didn’t. Riya just wanted friendship. Madhav didn’t. Riya suggested a compromise. She agreed to be his half girlfriend.

The cover page with the silhouettes of the guy and the gal in the story isn’t really captivating enough to be honest. The font of the text throughout is good as is the case with books published by the guys at Rupa Publications.

The concept isn’t really new. There have been hundreds of books and movies on protagonists who are from different strata of the society. But in the end, the treatment is what matters the most. While the book starts off as the usual chick-lit novels, Chetan is famous for, it changes track to delve into deeper issues of society, relations, philanthropy and the likes.

At the outset, Chetan has dedicated the novel to his mother, rural India and the ‘non-English’ types as you call them. Many of us may cringe at the thought, but you surely get an idea at the target market for which he has written this one. There are even situations when the characters read CB novels to improve their English.

The narrative is interesting in parts. You feel for the character played by Madhav who is from Bihar and doesn’t really know English. The situations he faces for his lack of knowledge of English and the way he tackles them is sure to find a lot of applause among those who have come from the non – English speaking backgrounds.

CB is generally not known for creating strong woman characters. Riya, though not too strong, isn’t portrayed too weakly either. She has a mind of her own and wants to live her life on her own terms rather than pleasing her family.

The story picks up pace after the first 60-80 pages as both Madhav and Riya go on to pursue their dreams. The story happens over a period of around 7 years or so and CB has ensured that the changing times are reflected in the maturity of his characters. The love story or the lack of it between the two is portrayed quite well in terms of what both Madhav and Riya go through. Thankfully, CB has stayed away from sex this time except a few lines which are not graphic descriptions either.

As is always the case, CB knows the pulse of the audience he is trying to cater to. From romance to melodrama; from focusing on governmental inefficiency to philanthropy by foreigners, CB has got all his bases covered in terms of what he wants to convey to his readers. From Bihar to Delhi to New York, he has described the places quite well.

The negatives?

The sentences CB has used during the conversations particularly between Riya and Madhav seem quite irritating at times. For example –

“How are you?” He said.

“I am fine.” She said.

There’s too much usage of “He/She/I/You said” after every statement said by the characters. The story is written quite literally like a Bollywood movie with all the cliches thrown in for good measure.

CB could have dealt a lot more on the sequences between Riya and her family. Though she doesn’t like the way her family displays their wealth, there is not much dialogue between them in the story.

I wouldn’t talk about the vocabulary, grammar, sentence correction etc. since the target audience are quite literally the ‘non-English’ types as CB exclaims.

All in all, a usual CB read.

Rating – 3/5

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4 Comments

  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I like learning about books from India. They sound different and yet similar at the same time.

    • aseemrastogi2

      Hey Chetan Bhagat is generally quite famous for writing Chick – lit and very cliched stuff but he works here because he knows the pulse of the masses who expect a lot of melodrama :).

      But there are various other Indian writers you can try who write quite good stuff which include Anita Desai, Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry etc.

  2. wordcoiner

    Okay, seems like you set out to rip it apart but then eventually liked it in bits and pieces. I am still to get hold of it. Nobody I know has bought it. And you are nations apart!

    • aseemrastogi2

      Haha. I guess my point was basically that the book was too cliched and with dialogues like ‘Deti Hai toh de warna kat le’, it was a bit too much. But then I guess the kind of audience he caters to laps all this up. So in the end, the rating was more with respect to how his audience would find the book :P. Oh actually this book is in India with my Mom ;).

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