The moment one hears the word Confession, one is reminded of either the various ‘confessions pages’ active on Facebook, or Churches with vicars ensconced within the dark comfort of the confession booths. But confessions on an island? That set in motion the wheels of curiosity fuelled by flashes of imagination running riot – what exactly could the confessions be about? Would they revolve around penitent people desperately hopeful of being forgiven and seeking abstinence from their sins? Would the confessions be something about an extra-marital affair? A murder, perhaps accidental? But what the author Ayan Pal has concocted is something that even a seasoned reader cannot fathom, without divulging deep into the novel right from the beginning and surfacing at the end with the treasure – the knowledge that confessions can be different, that they can take you to places in ways that you never imagined could happen and that they can make you feel void, though they be fiction.
An exotic island with mangroves! No nosey neighbours or troublesome kids. A house situated amidst the trees. The porch offers a peaceful view of the waves crashing on the shores. The occasional sound of birds as they fly in search of food, cuddly looking turtles running amok on the isolated beach and a young couple walking slowly on the beach, the girl’s eyes fixed on the far horizon…
Sounds captivating! Does it not? Let’s have a small change of scenario. On a closer inspection, the girl’s eyelids are swollen. Her hands are bruised. The seemingly leisurely walk that the couple has stems from the fact that the girl has difficulty in walking due to the injustice done to her body by the man with her… Yes, the man is her abductor. The island is no more exotic, but frightening. There is an insane craving to hear sounds of neighbours’ talk. Why was she kidnapped? And who was he?
Be transported to the mysterious island of Ayan Pal to find out for yourself…
Ayan Pal’s approach to this work is entirely different from the novels flooding the market these days. The plethora of characters and incidents surrounding and interlinking their lives makes one’s mind swim. The author has skillfully connected all events to make this a thrilling web of hidden mazes and surprising sub-plots.
Ayan Pal travels to the core of the readers’ minds through his debut novel, shocks readers by various twists and turns, evinces either revulsion or scintillation by the erotic scenes sprinkled generously across Confessions on an Island, brings smiles of appreciation to language aficionados by his use, and goes to the next level by making this psychological – almost Freudian. And that is a complement! There are incidents in the novel which may or may not have been taken out of the life of the author (and we are not talking about sex). The author’s love for his mother shines like a beacon for all to see. So does his love for Calcutta.
Ayan Pal keeps the readers guessing throughout the novel. This is almost like the novels of Agatha Christie, in which the readers are exposed to all the facts of the mystery. Many such facts are revealed chapter after chapter as readers frantically try to connect the dots and find the connection between the lady and the gent. This is a success. Nowhere does the story lag or go astray. This is what separates this novel from the other novels. This is engrossingly psychological and deeply mind searching.
It would be humanly impossible to pen a novel such as this without having first been buried under tons of books or been glued to a computer monitor like a fly on a wall. The mention of different dishes around the world, their origins and recipes stand as a monument in the novel testifying to the foodie hidden inside the author. One can almost taste certain dishes while reading – so powerful is the narration.
Talk about culture. This novel does it. The novel takes readers across the world – from Copenhagen to Lancaster and from there to Bangalore to New Delhi, and of course Malaysia, where the main action takes place. Cultures of the world are linked to form the basis of this novel. Without the criss-cross of varied cultures, this novel would not have the sweet aroma that emanates out of it.
One of the strengths of the novel is the last few chapters of the novel, as the seemingly unconnected events are drawn tightly together to make sense. As the motive is being revealed, one cannot but stop for awhile and marvel at the ingenuity of the author at having conceived such a complex plot with countless minions helping the smooth sail of the story. The language of the author is certainly laudable. It stands out from the language of the run of the mill books that reek of sub-standard language and rely on libidinous overtures to make sales, if any at all. That the author had targeted an upper educated class of readers is evident from the deep psychological approach used liberally. There are even traces of the stream of consciousness method, which is rarely found in Indian novels nowadays. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Confessions on an Island subscribed in the syllabus of M. A. English or for M. Phil. scholars of English Literature in the next few years. Newbie readers will not be able to navigate their way into this novel and be able to surface. The level is top-notch. Ayan Pal has imprinted himself as a literary novelist of the current era, at a time when India is badly in need of quality writers such as him. By doing so, he has made the Indian and global fans of his writing skills wait with bated breath for his next creation. What would it be?
Credits to Readomania for having published such a singular novel!