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A Cool, Dark Place by Supriya Dravid

A disturbing yet heart-warming tale of love, betrayal and relationships is how one can describe A Cool, Dark Place [Random House India, Rs 450], a debut novel by journalist-turned-writer Supriya Dravid.

The story revolves around Zephyr, a confident young woman whose life alters completely after her father Gravy kills himself. Unable to re-build her life in New Zealand, she returns with her mother to her mother’s childhood home in Madras, where her mother nurses a broken heart and her hedonistic grandfather Don is fighting for his life after a stroke.

If all this wasn’t enough, Zephyr finds out that Gravy was not her birth father. Even as she tries to come to terms with her true identity, she keeps getting lost in a maze of family secrets, including her libidinous grandfather’s affair with the man who was Zef’s mother’s first love (yes, you read that right!). Did the grandpa have an affair with Zef’s biological father too? The author keeps it vague.

The treatment of time in the book deserves a special mention. The past and the present overlap, creating an engaging space-time continuum. The characters are life-like and relatable, and throughout the novel, they surprise and shock you.

The language is lucid, while certain parts are almost poetic. Using the grandfather Don as her mouthpiece, the author speaks out loud about passions and dreams. The delicate relationship between a parent and a child has been described well. However, the pacing is exhaustingly slow in parts with some predictable twists. On the whole a bitter-sweet novel, A Cool, Dark Place made me laugh and cry and will remain with me for a while.