30 August 2012

The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

This book is set in a remote army outpost in Afghanistan. Six main characters tell the story. Each one has a different perspective and a different experience of the war, and these arise from very different lives, education, personalities, and thoughts. So the scenery before us is not just desert storms and murderous ambush but also clear skies, cosy families, and the life of the mind – on another continent far away.
A woman stands outside the garrison, pleading that the body of her brother be given to her so that she can give it a decent burial.
Is this a ploy?
Is she really a woman?
Could she really be a cripple, and have dragged herself for miles to come here for her brother’s body?
But the body is to be flown to Kandahar.
Was he really a Talib – or a Mujahid freedom fighter as she says?
Should the body be given to her?
Young men - very young indeed - are making decisions of great consequence. Should they be guided by their feelings, or by the rules? Is there really any such thing as ‘right’ – or ‘wrong’?
Like any Greek tragedy, this book is strewn with love, longing, loss, beautiful music – and an inevitable conclusion.
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya is not just a novelist who knows how to grip the reader – he’s also an anthropologist. He depicts living cultures, and lays them side by side for the reader to compare and admire. He makes us wish, even while showing us that it’s impossible, for a happy ending.

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