I must confess to being slightly disappointed in this one. I know of Ruskin Bond’s works mostly through a few Literary meets and through constant recommendations from my friends who seem to love him. It was through their assurances that I was compelled to read “Maharani” so perhaps part of the reason why the entire experience of this book was underwhelming was because of my heightened expectations. But even after taking that into account the novel itself felt a bit hollow.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here, let’s talk about the plot. There isn’t much of it.
Lack of substantial plot is not in itself an issue. I love many books that talk about nothing in particular in a great amount of detail but somehow I really felt the lack of substance in this novel. The core of the story revolves around the eponymous Maharani who is a friend of the character version of out author.
It depicts her hedonistic escapades as she goes about life caring for little else but herself and doing so in a great deal of style. Bond as a player in the novel archives their relationship and her life as she marries several times, runs successful businesses, raises two sons who become junkies and gamblers, participates in far too many illicit affairs and has the time of her life doing it.
All this in itself would be interesting and is, in fact, one of the best parts of the novel. Bond’s unapologetic construction of a monstrously callous yet oddly endearing lead is not insignificant and there were moments when I was reading about the Maharani’s latest spree of destruction that did bring a smile to my face but those moments were too few and far between.
On the whole, I found the book populated with uninteresting characters who despite the author’s best efforts come across as two dimensional. Pablo is the only other character of any interest due to his childish antics and wise beyond his year’s attitude but this too does not last long as he is dispatched at the halfway point rather unceremoniously.
The majority of character serve no purpose in the story than to be odd interjections and tangents away from the main plot. About half of the novel feels like filler as if the author had a collection of anecdotes that were too short to write into a novel by themselves so he extended it by adding superfluous story lines.
On the writing front, the novel is pleasant enough. Its written in a wry and sedate tone of an old man given to laughing at the idiocy of others. It calming and the second selling point of the novel. The lightheartedness that it conveys even in some harrowing circumstances and the humorous tone make for a relaxing read.
On the whole “Maharani” is far from a bad novel, it’s just not very good. You could go through your whole life having not read this and it wouldn’t impact you in the slightest. And this I think is the main impression I got from the novel, its fine when you’re reading it but the moment you put it down you won’t care to think about it much again.
Pick this up is you need a quick read.