Okay. Let’s begin this. Review. Yes. Review. A Review of Sudeep Nagarkar’s book That’s the Way We Met. I can do this. Yes. This is possible. So this book. This very special and interesting book. No. I can’t do this. I just can’t. It’s not possible. No. No. I can. Let’s go back to the beginning.
Stop. Ruby what are you doing?
You’re supposed to be writing a review, not printing the conversation going on in your mind onto the computer screen. Give them what they want – a review. They don’t want to read a splurge of your inner thoughts and feelings that in no way, shape or form can be coherently expressed.
I understand this. Believe me, I do. But I feel like Sudeep Nagarkar failed to.
Now, I wanted to go easy on him. I wanted to write an extremely diplomatic review where I would highlight the things that I liked about his book and then delve into the many, many things that I disliked, and then I wanted to conclude this review with an all-rounded positive-ish rating of his book.
But I just couldn’t do it.
So to help myself, before writing a review about That’s the Way We Met, I decided to look up some ratings and comments on Goodreads to see if anyone else mirrored my own thoughts. And alas! I found comments that fit my thoughts like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Here are just a few of my favourite examples:
- “There was no clear plot in the novel
Very draggy storyline
The introduction was good but then as the story progresses, it got boring
Lengthy explanations that means nothing
Overall : A bad book”
- “I don’t have the words nor the inclination to write how utterly ridiculous thisbook pile of crap was. It was one and a half hours of my life that I’m never getting back.
Fuck you, book.
And my personal favourite was by a young Mr Saurab Jain:
- “First things first, the writer is simply unaware of the fact that there exist some concepts of editing and proofreading before publishing any book. The book is written in some trash-blog- form of English without any spell and grammar checks.”
Okay, perhaps I am being a little too harsh on Nagarkar and I agree that there were some positive reviews on Goodreads as well. However, I have to confess with utmost honesty that I literally had to force myself to finish reading this book merely because of my ‘finish-every-book-you-start-reading’ fetish. If it hadn’t been for my inner-OCD-self, I would’ve placed this book right underneath the tall mountain of titles that are stacked in the corner of my bedroom and are sitting in my mental file entitled ‘books I will never read’.
So a little bit about That’s the Way We Met. This book was the second one I read by an Indian author, the first being Chetan Bhagat’s Two States (another mentally exhausting read – not as bad as this one though – but I won’t go into that today). The plot traces the romantic path of the narrator Arjun and his beau Riya’s relationship in the forefront of a lot of different (mostly irrelevant) events that take place in the backdrop – such as Arjun’s teamleader/friend’s rapidly expedient marriage with Riya’s friend, both Arjun and Riya’s promotion and other fleeting affairs that pave the way for the poorly scripted climax of the book. A climax which – given the title of the book – does not fit in the rest of the book at all.
This is not a book about ‘meeting’ as the title indicates; the central characters are already in love from the initiation of the story. So shouldn’t this book have been called something like ‘That’s the Way She Left’? Clearly, Nagarkar didn’t think so.
Anyway, on to the things that I liked:
- The first thing that I liked was the use of simplistic language. This is something that lots of Indian readers appreciate and perhaps that was one of the characteristics of this book which helped it become a bestseller (still shocked about that, by the way.)
- The second thing I liked was the intermittent appearance of Indian love songs that made me smile occasionally as they warbled in my mind whenever I read the lyrics on cream paper. They were cute, short and much appreciated.
- The third thing is the revelation of intimacy in Nagarkar’s thoughts that have the ability to connect to the reader. The fact that this book is a manifestation of Nagarkar’s emotions scribbled on paper is what touched me the most. Perhaps this was the reason for my smile at the end when I read the Epilogue. He managed to grab my attention only then. He loves her, godammit. I thought. But if only he could’ve skilfully portrayed this ability with the rest of his writing, it really would’ve done wonders.
Moving on to the things that I didn’t like:
- Now, I’m not playing a comparing game but simplistic language in a novel usually works. No one likes reading a novel version of a philosophy essay with lengthened words that reflect gibberish rather than English. I know this. Believe me I do because I’m a philosophy graduate. Simplistic language does well.
So why didn’t simplistic language work here?
It didn’t work because this novel took advantage of the ‘simplistic language’ selling point and tried to use an outpouring of Nagarkar’s inner thoughts and feelings (which were expressed in his diary, by the way) and attempted to transform it into a novel. That is so brash! How could you possibly think that one’s emotional outpouring can form a novel? I understand that in order to have a connection with the narrator, we need to know what the narrator feels at particular instances in the story. However, a story that just keeps telling us what he feels and doesn’t tell us what happens doesn’t get the reader anywhere.
A best-selling novel shows, it doesn’t just tell. Nagarkar’s book just tells.
- The romance isn’t reflective of contemporary relationships because the majority of us don’t spend our time seeing our partners’ every single day or texting them extended, cheesy messages every chance that we get. We’re practical. We’re independent. We don’t allow our every day to drag on until we see our partner, as if our soul resides within them. I mean, it can but not to this extent. Especially after 2 years of being in a relationship. It almost felt like I was reading a 1960’s version of a Nicholas Sparks novel but the beautiful romance and descriptive writing was replaced with cheesy text messages expressing a farcy, unrealistic love.
- Probably the most profound crime committed in this book was by its editors. Personally, this isn’t something I expected from Penguin Random House, which is one of the leading publishing companies in the world. So what if the branch is in India? Its editors should’ve known better than to allow a book with so many grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes and punctuation errors to get published. It was preposterous to come across a mistake time and time again and bite my lip in anger at such ignorance.
This is perhaps why I heavily comply with Saurab’s review. A book with this many grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes is basically a ‘trash-blog- form of English without any spell and grammar checks’ and even bloggers write better than this, way better than this.
In conclusion, I guess I may been been a little harsh on Nagarkar as writing is a difficult process, especially when what one is writing about is so entwined in their heart. But still, I just don’t think that one can easily get away with writing a novel without it being well conceptualised, written, proofread and edited. It just doesn’t work. The concept was one that could’ve taken this book to great heights and allowed it to reach the depths of peoples’ hearts all over the world. But because of all of those errors (that could’ve been ironed out easily), it failed to.
I do not suggest any sane reader to purchase this book and waste their time. Unless, of course, you’d like to do that sort of thing.
Happy reading (but not his book)!