Publisher: Random House India
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In her second offering in the Jana Bibi series, Betsy Woodman returns to the small town of Hamara Nagar, nestled in the hills of the Himalayas. There are new characters and a plot involving espionage and kidnapping. After saving the town from displacement, thanks to a successful rebellion against the proposed dam construction, Jana Bibi continues her fortune telling business in her old Jolly Grant house. She chances upon Mr. Abhinath’s ‘Love Potion Number 10’ at his shop which he promises will bring her her true love. Does she find it? On the other side, someone is planning to ‘bird’-nap Mr. Ganguly. Will Jana Bibi be able to save him?
The author’s language is beautiful when it comes to describing the quaint town of Hamara Nagar. She aptly describes a small town and its people. The snowy winters and the summer breezes make you want to visit the fictional town of Hamara Nagar. She has a way of immersing her readers in the rural India of the 1960’s with a coherent narrative technique that transports you into Jana Bibi’s world. This book is the second in the Jana Bibi series, but if you have missed the first one, it doesn’t matter. It is surprising how a foreign author can write so beautifully about India; her love for India is pretty evident in her narratives.
Jana Bibi has been portrayed as an endearing character who reminds one of their grandma – patient with kids, friendly, lonely at times but always brimming with optimism. Mary is Jana’s helper who has known her for a long time and is more of a friend and confidante than just a maid. Tilku is a bright, ambitious kid who overcomes his dislike for school when he decides that all he wants to do with his life is to become a pilot. Lal Bahadur Pun is reminiscent of a typical ex-‘fauji’. This story is filled with many more such well defined characters like Ramachandran of the Treasure Emporium, Rambir the striving newspaper editor and his cheerful educator of a wife, Ritu, Feroz Khan, the adroit tailor, Miriam, the aged school teacher, Aunt Sylvia, the nonagenarian with a love for life, etc. It is full of characters that you would encounter in your day- to-day life, which makes you take a liking to the author’s character portrayals.
The author keeps her story pretty simple and straightforward, but at times it gets too simple. There are quite a few diversions that are rather unwanted, and which make the otherwise colorful story dull. And the plot doesn’t gain pace even after the first half, making your attention and expectations wane.
You know the feeling you get when a book starts to become dull? Like you’d rather watch TV or do something else than continue with the book, thinking that you’d rather finish it later. I got THAT feeling when I was halfway through the book. But if you persist and beat that feeling, you will have read something pleasantly light-hearted and jocular. It definitely gave me that much needed break from a continuous reading of heavy and verbose novels.