I find that Raj Kamal Jha's prose is very hard to describe and I've already started writing this review couple of times without any success worth mentioning. The problem lies with the fact that Jha's novels often feel like poetry and I never know how to adequately describe the feelings that they tend to stir up. "She Will Build Him a City" is built as a cycle of connected stories with Delhi as their center. Jha's Delhi is a dangerous and frightening place that can eat you alive, one which at times becomes almost like an evil caricature of itself. Similarly to Jha who works in the city, each of his characters is full of stories and lifes its live despite all the chaos and menace in the air. But not everything is doom and gloom. There's hope if you want to find it - all those immigrants coming to build their lives out of nothing. Some of them will even succeed in reaching their dreams. Similarly to Delhi, "She Will Build Him a City" is a palimpsest with layer upon layer of stories to discover.
Stories themselves revolve around characters known only as Woman, Man and Child who are caught in everyday situations built around social tensions in this vibrant and ever changing community. Wealthy Man looks from the safety of his car as police is using water cannons on the protesters and dreams of murder while the Woman spends time telling tales of the past to her daughter. Child, on the other hand, comes from different side of the spectrum and is an orphan abandoned by its mother on the doorsteps of the orphanage. As the story unfolds, the three characters become connected by fourth and the final strand of the tale comes into view. Ultimately, its really not that important as by then you'll be perfectly aware of the city and its constant evolution. No matter what happens with our protagonists the city will go on with its endless onslaught of death, violence and occasional laughter.
Raj Kamal Jha's "She Will Build Him a City" is also notable for breaking the traditions of a classic Indian novel. Ruminations about the past are almost nonexistent and Jha is more willing to embrace the future however chaotic is might seem. More importantly, it also beckons full attention from its reader. Superficial glance will hardly do it justice because just as every metropolis only reveals its true colours when you stray off the tourist trail, "She Will Build Him a City" works best when you fully embrace and understand its symbolism and concepts. "She Will Build Him a City" is raw novel about Modern India and, equally as its subject, is irresistibly alluring.
Review copy provided by Bloomsbury UK
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