Black River by Nilanjana Roy – Review

Black River by Nilanjana Roy – Review logo

By Sandra Callard

Nilanjana Roy’s latest novel commences with a jarring and disconcerting incident: the tragic demise of an eight-year-old girl, left momentarily unattended in the bustling precincts of Teetarpure in India. In the custodial care of her aunt owing to her father’s professional commitments, the child’s heart-rending demise reverberates beyond her immediate family, ensnaring the entire locality in its grip. As the search for her assailant gains momentum, the neighborhood metamorphoses into a cauldron of collective fury and fear, poised to engulf any hapless perpetrator in its seething flames.

Within this unfolding saga, a poignant and often haphazard attempt to trace the perpetrator emerges, a futile endeavor punctuated by the sometimes lacklustre efforts of the local law enforcement. Consequently, an atmosphere of panic and disillusionment shrouds the community, overshadowing the ineffectual strategies employed by the authorities. Amidst this chaotic milieu, the narrative deftly captures the nuanced responses of the Indian populace, oscillating between comprehension and trepidation. This offers an insightful examination of the prevailing ethos, even as law enforcement races to quell incipient unrest, ultimately restoring a semblance of order.

Central to this tapestry is Chand, the grieving father, who stands as the linchpin of the story. Roy masterfully portrays his persona, etching the contours of a man grappling with loss through a prism of resilience and perspicacity. Collaborating with the police in pursuit of justice, Chand’s character is a testament to the human spirit’s ability to endure even the most harrowing of trials. The tale deftly navigates his journeys across the nation, vividly painting the tension that pervades and interweaving evocative descriptions of India’s landscape with the unfolding drama.

Black River by Nilanjana Roy – Review cover image“Sense of urgency”

Notably, Black River embarks on an expedition that transcends its role as a mere whodunit. It unfurls as a geographical sojourn, offering readers a multifaceted tour of India, both physical and cultural. This approach uniquely melds the intrigue of a gripping narrative with the immersive experience of traversing a lesser-known world — a blend that imparts a depth of understanding that few conventional tomes on the nation could aspire to achieve.

Roy’s narrative prowess comes to the fore, rendering an enthralling saga replete with revelations about a country that often resides at the periphery of global awareness. The pages brim with vivid descriptions, capturing the reader’s imagination in a singular manner. The story’s denouement is imbued with an arresting sense of urgency, ensuring that the reader remains captivated until the very last word.

‘Black River’ has an exceptional narrative—a convergence of nuanced characters and a vivid tapestry of India’s diversity. It is a compelling and uncommon book that retains its hold on the reader’s attention from start to finish.

‘Black River’ by Nilanjana Roy is published by Pushkin Press


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