Book 2 of X
The Alchemy of Secrets
By Priya Balasubramanian
There are few things that catch my attention like stuff related to Bangalore do and my friends know this well which is how this book landed up with me. Set partly in Bangalore of the 90’s and in a small town called Malehalli in the 80’s, this is a story that delicately weaves together friendships, young love, loss, envy, greed, misogyny and a changing political landscape in India that’s become increasingly casteist and communal.
It’s hard not to be consumed by the stories of each of the characters in this book because of how beautifully the author tells those tales. One thing that really stuck with me was something brilliant she does with silence throughout the book. It’s those little moments when her characters are taking a break or in silent introspection or just simply sitting around that gives the reader time to get into their heads and get to know them more than any introduction could. Through the chapters, she takes us on a journey that skips liberally between two timelines but is always focused on the perspective of one character at a time. Towards the end when it all comes together, each scene is described in such perfect detail that I could all but see it play out in my head and on more than one occasion I was either fighting back tears or seething with rage. When I’m back in Bangalore, I’ll be sure to take a stroll on Sampige Road and think about Mira, Anisa and Ajji who I will miss dearly now that I’ve finished reading this book!
Reading time: 3 days.
Bonus: I had some random playlist on Youtube playing in the background while I was reading this book (as I invariably always do) and a couple of songs just seem to fit in nicely with the whole feel of the book. In fact, this happens quite often. Certain songs remind me of specific places or people or stories so as I go along this X book challenge, I figured I’d also include a “theme song” with each post.