Publisher: Random House
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I've read books of all kinds. Romantic novels. Books on war. Thrillers. I've read books where the protagonist was a singer or a soldier or a woman in a war-torn country. However, until I picked up Narayan Wagle's Palpasa Cafe, I had never read a romantic book set during the Civil War in Nepal, from the perspective of a painter.
The book starts on a metafictional note. The narrator of the novel, is a journalist, who is writing a book about Drishya, a painter. While he is waiting for Drishya, he learns that Drishya has been abducted by a group of Maoists
Chapter One begins with Drishya meeting Palpasa, an American-Nepali harboring a dream of making a documentary, in Goa. Sparks exchange but nothing fruitions. They both leave without exchanging contact numbers. As the story progresses, we find that Drishya is now accompanying his Maoist friend, Siddhartha, to various parts of Kathmandu. It is only during his travels that he learns of the hardship of the Nepalis and the pathetic conditions in Nepal.
To elaborate and divulge more of the story would shatter the illusion and make the book a boring read. The book may be mistaken for being another romance novel but it is also a book on war. Unlike other books, this book cannot be classified as either fiction or non-fiction because the author brilliantly gels these two diverse and different genres together to produce what we know as Palpasa Cafe
This book was originally written in Nepali and translated to English much later. In the author's note, Wagle informs his readers about the dearth of dedicated and passionate translators in Nepal. Perhaps that is why, the narration of this book seems a little distorted.
Despite having a male protagonist, Palpasa Cafe has many female characters. Each of these characters have a large impact on Drishya's life. On the other hand, the male characters are few and quite forgettable.
The end, left somewhat of a bitter taste. With such a brilliant storyline, Wagle should have penned a better ending. Even, a cliff-hanger would have made a better conclusion.
To conclude, Palpasa Cafe is not a must-read but is definitely a good novel to read when you are in the mood for a simple, well-written story.