Book Review – The Other Side of the Table

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‘The Other Side of the Table’ is Madhumita Mukherjee’s first novel. She has pursued medicine and works as a consultant paediatrician in Manchester. She has a special affinity for epistolary novels. And that’s what she pursues in her first attempt at writing. Does it work? Let’s check it out.

The blurb goes like this –

Circa 1990.
A world drawn and woven with words.
A bond punctuated by absence and distance . . .
Two continents. Two cities. Two people.
And letters. Hundreds of them.
Over years. Across oceans. Between hearts.

Between Abhi, who is training to be a neurosurgeon in London, and Uma, who is just stepping into the world of medicine in Kolkata.

As they ink their emotions onto paper, their lives get chronicled in this subtly nuanced conversation through letters . . . letters about dreams, desires, heartbreaks, and longings . . . about a proverbial good life falling apart, about a failed marriage, a visceral loss, and about a dream that threatens social expectations . . .

Letters that talk. And don’t. Letters about this and that. Letters about everything . . .

Letters with a story you would never expect.

The book has a simple cover which portrays the 1990s quite beautifully. The presentation and font style of the content is excellent as always seen from the stable of Fingerprint Publishing.

There have been epistolary novels earlier as well. But honestly, I haven’t yet read any of them. And so for me, this was a completely alien concept as I embarked on the journey of Uma and Abhimanyu. The entire book is based on a series of letters which these two characters send across a period of 9 years. They talk about their likes, dislikes, the people in their lives, their work, their every single thing. They literally share their lives together.

The narrative is simple and easy to comprehend. There are no subplots to confuse the reader. The story is just about these two characters. Madhumita is quite effective in portraying the bond of friendship between these two just through these letters. Though they have an age gap of ten years, he is literally like her confidant, mentor and guide. Despite being situated across different continents, they always discuss on what goes on in each other’s lives.

Those were the times when there was no SMS, no Whatsapp, no Facebook and no Gmail. It was the time when letters ruled the roost. And Madhumita is excellent in making the reader realize the value of heartfelt letters in the 90s. Since the characters are pursuing medicine, there could have been a chance that the book may throw some jargons from the medical world. But Madhumita thankfully ensures that doesn’t happen. The fact that she is a doctor, the medical part of the story would have come quite easier to her. There also talk about women’s empowerment at a certain point in the story.

The book did have a few downsides as well. Some of the letters had the tendency to get slightly boring with needless information which didn’t really take the story forward. Those looking for something full of mystery or drama would be surely disappointed quite a bit since this is a very simple uncomplicated read.

Both Uma and Abhimanyu’s characters are heartfelt, life – like and excellently portrayed. The way their lives, their trials and tribulations are depicted, as a reader you are pulled into their world.

All in all, go for this if a subtle, simple and beautiful tale of romance & friendship is your cup of tea..You won’t be disappointed!

Rating – 4/5

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