Book Review: My Lawfully Wedded Husband and other stories by Madhulika Liddle
Twelve spine-chilling stories from a writer whose sleight of hand with black humour is hard to match. In A Brief Lesson in Trust, Geeti learns the hard way that the most reliable girl in school is not always what she seems; in St. George and the Dragon, Mr George, the archetypal government clerk finds a fiendishly clever way to outstmart his corrupt boss while The Howling Waves of Tranquebar takes us to this tiny Danish settlement of yore where an innocuous-looking beer mug still has strange powers of destruction. These and other stories in this collection entertain, amuse – but always end with a twist in the tale that leaves a few goosebumps.
A collection of short stories is always a treat to story lovers like me – short, sweet and many 🙂 The stories in this anthrology are short and many but not sweet; instead they are darkly humorous or humorously dark. Some are spine-chilling, some are shock-inducing but there is one thing common among all of them – they all have uniformly and deliciously interesting plots and killer twists at the end.
One important element in any story is characters and the author scores a perfect ten there. Each and every character is well-etched, believable and real-life. At every moment I felt that the characters are found in our day-today lives – amongst our neighbours, colleagues, friends and family. The plots are part-sinister, part-humorous which has made the stories both gripping and entertaining at the same time.
Describing each story would take away the surprise element from them, so I will steer clear from giving away spoilers. But some of the stories deserve special mention.
“A Tale of a Summer Vacation” describes what a young girl observes around her during her stay with her grandmother. The narrative shows exactly what the girl sees and feels, which in turn makes the reader at one with story. Add to that a most unexpected twist and the story becomes one of the best in the collection.
“My Lawfully Wedded Husband” begins with the average bored wife describing her husband in detail and you begin to wonder where it is leading to. The narration matches the mood of the wife which oscillates from being caustic to condescending and hurls the readers to a sudden shocking end. The feeling was almost that of being hurled headfirst into a pool of chilling water.
“Hourie” is a mystery in the most unusual set-up – a brothel. It revolves around a ‘sinduk’ and what lies inside it. From customers to fellow inmates – everyone is eager to lay his hand on its riches. What happens at the end when its contents are revealed lifts the whole story to a different level all together.
“St George and Dragon” is, at its core, a love story with a twist. It has a Government babu, his nondescript PA, the beautiful female colleague and dollops of corruption. Though a predictable plot, the handling of the same is what makes all the difference.
“The Crusader”, in my opinion, has the most hilarous ending among all the stories in the collection. In her ingenuous manner, the author takes a simple event and weaves a story around it.
“Sum Total”, “On the Nigh Train”, “Number 63”, and “Feet of Clay” are some of the other beautiful short stories in the collection. However, “A Brief Lesson in Trust” and “Silent Fear” fell short among more brilliant cousins in the collection.
Overall, a wonderful, breezy read for the short story lovers.