Great books are bound together with not just mere text, but with an element of something special that is tangible in every sense. It isn’t easy for an author to create a work of fiction/non-fiction that has a magnetic effect on the reader. Sometimes that idea or purpose is lost for many authors. Priya Narendra’s debut novel amidst the Indian market entitled You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky! could have been so much more than its nebulous delivery.
It was happenstance to be given a book that I could slightly relate to, seeing that the novel’s leading damsel is a copywriter. The first chapter reveals our leading lady (Kajal) seeking cover from her overbearing mother who makes frail attempts to staple her to a childhood somebody known as Bunty. She is at an extravagant Delhi wedding that is set within a very posh, yet poorly decorated farmhouse, one that screams hideousness.
The first chapter, where she meets Dhir, is barely amusing. He is dapper, humorous, delicious-looking, and sadly for Kajal, settled miles away in Mumbai. They depart – he with her number and without a name to it (odd that she doesn’t bring up her name during conversation), and she, back to her bustling work life. The story moves forward as the book reveals that Kajal works in advertising and is under constant pressure from her mother to get hitched. Her father though is sympathetic and trusts that his daughter will make it big one day, for he is more of a career man. While he embodies the gentle father figure, her mother although sweet and loving, has proven to be a consistent pain in the rear when it comes to settling down.
Kajal is your average independent Indian woman – she lives alone in a rented flat in Gurgaon, never misses an opportunity to party, and has a fetish for labels. A nagging assumption nips at me – the author spruces up the image of the protagonist and is in my opinion, throwing in a lot of her personal traits into the mix. There are constant references strung together with unnecessary jabber that not all readers will get.
Most times the flow of dialogue is irrelevant, senseless, or outdated. Hindi dialogue is translated so that’s a plus for someone like me, although there are many instances where the author has forgotten to translate these. The characters in the book that spring up often; friends like Junaki, Shonali, Debu and others, do not have their own sense of self. You can hear the voice of the author in all of her characters, except for a Mr. Mishra who is a conservative yet sleazy client that she sketches fairly well.
The major drawback is in the form of how the author fails to breathe life into her characters. You’ll encounter instances in the story that are prosaic and ill-humoured, with archaic banter and a desperate need to race through to the end of the book. Yes you can relate to Kajal if – you max out on your credit card as a result of being a spendthrift, chill at expensive restaurants, lose out on having a personal life as a result of your career, party like you’re still in college, or meet a man who may be the Prince Charming every girl hopes to run into.
On the flipside, the book proves to be a breezy read where Kajal’s big break in advertising will have your interest piqued, coupled with a dollop of incidents that will surprise you. The author manages to impart knowledge on advertising, but still fails to provide substantial insight. The end of the novel will leave you sighing in dismay, because you’ll wish (just like I did) for a similarly happy, cheesy, close-to-unbelievable pleasant ending.