To quote from the book's website directly : "A blend of fiction and fact, enhanced by photographs, THE STOPOVER takes its readers on a voyage to four uncharted territories through four absorbing stories." 

 The inquisitive Aquarian in me was intrigued when I first heard the premise of this book. Even before I got a chance to preview a story from it, various doubts ran through my mind : Fact, fiction and pictures in a novel? Would it end up being like a long travel brochure? A coffee-table photo album with quotes? What was I going to receive?



 Having read it, I can safely say, I'm glad to be proven wrong.



The Stopover is an extremely creative venture by co-authors Deepa Pinto and Ram Prakash ( who is also the eyes behind the camera ). They take us along with them on a journey across four vastly different terrains : the snow laden mountains and monasteries of Ladakh, the more popular metropolitan Chennai, a secretive tribal land in Ooty and the little known 'land of toys' Channapatna.

 The Tibetian Wheel of Wisdom : the title promises to engage at a more spiritual level. The tale begins with a brooding Varun, looking to escape from a recent heartbreak by taking a trip to Ladakh. Once there, he surprises himself by forgetting about his own pain as he starts to mingle with the people of the land and gets mesmerised by the serene culture; a vast difference from the city he has walked away from. But even as he enjoys the comforts of their hospitality in the present, he also becomes acquainted with the horrific past of the Tibetian settlers... and a realization of how much sadness and suffering truly lies behind the eyes of those settlers.

 This story surprised me. I thought I had a grasp on it after the first few pages. It would be a calm, heartfelt story of the protagonist overcoming heartbreak while taking a break from the frenetic life of Bangalore. And it was definitely going in that direction in the first few pages. But then the story turned on it's head as we come face to face with the Tibetian settlers and having shared their joy and food, also share their tragic origins.

 The prose and writing style is engaging and succinct, without being condescending to us. The story is more character-driven, rather than event driven. This is perhaps apt - considering that this is a book about journeys and everyone knows the best journeys aren't about the destination, but about the route taken. The pictures are beautiful and vibrant. I know I am not in a crowd of one when I say that I tend to skip lengthy descriptions of inanimate surroundings and environment while reading a fictional tale. With this book, I found a better alternative - pristine pictures that add to the mental images we conjure up while reading. They take you right into the beauty of the moment, as seen from the protagonists eyes. More importantly, they take you to parts of India that you may have visualized in your mind's eye, but never seen till now. And yet, the pictures do not interrupt the flow of the prose.

 My final opinion : This has the potential to be a game changer in the present Indian fiction market. By keeping your stories short, you immediately stand a better chance of keeping the busybody readers of today hooked. While at first appearance it runs the risk of being labeled as just another coffee-table book because of it's own USP, the pictures here are complemented by three vital ingredients - articulate story-telling skills, a good vocabulary and fiction grounded in reality.

 This book is due for release in early October. Even before it's release, it has garnered many positive vibes from the public with over 55,000 fans for it's Facebook page. Having had a preview of it, I know I will be keeping my eye out for it's release to see how the book turns out and more importantly, the public's reaction to this new endeavour.

 For more information, visit the book's website here.

Addendum : The Authors Special release of the book 'THE STOPOVER' is currently available for a limited period on flipkart. Here is the link to know more & to place the order with cash on delivery option:
http://www.flipkart.com/the-stopover-8190842161/p/itmdehzeyx7gcfx8?pid=9788190842167

22 Comments

Harman said…
..Nice review Roshan..
hope we find this book soon in bookstores ..Btw I like books short n crisp upto the point .. gripping and with pictures lolzz
the reason I like coffee table books less content and more pictorial ..lolzz
But definitely your reviews makes me hunt for this book :)
Roshan said…
I know. Its tough to get time for full novels these days. This is the perfect middle ground - in between novel and coffeetable books. Keeps your mind occupied and you can enjoy the beauty of the locales as well.
Nirvana said…
That was one of the best reviews I've read - am quite intrigued by what the book looks like .... and look forward to seeing it in bookstores!
Rohan said…
Sounds like a really good one! Should get a copy!
Roshan said…
Thanks. But go for the book, not for my review :)
Am sure the Aquarian in you is intrigued too :D
Roshan said…
Give it a shot when the book releases... looks good.
Ankita Ghosh said…
How,or rather, by employing what kind of style does an author become condescending? Other than perhaps sounding like a preacher is there anything more that you are trying to hint at? Just wanted to know...

Also, yes, I do give out a sad, sad sigh when I read, "It's tough to get time for full novels these days" and because what is said is true... I wonder if we are losing out on good literature, because we want everything to be short and crisp in our virtually driven social lifestyle?

Skipping lengthy descriptions of inanimate surroundings and environment... well, perhaps I am in the minority then :P But, yes character driven novels have often turned out to be classics, but the characters have often developed because of these extraneous circumstance - events, or even an inanimate object that might have inspired them.

Looking forward to your views on the above :)
Nisha said…
Sounds very interesting. I love short stories more than longer tales. Will definitely read this one.
Thanks for this informative review. Will look forward to this book.
Roshan said…
You hit the nail on the head with the first point - preaching. As I mentioned, this book does turn towards some facts about the Tibetians I was not aware of. Yet it doesn't try to demand you see only their point of view. It gives room for you to think for yourself ( sometimes via the protagonist, sometimes via the Tibetian story teller within the story itself ). Another point is in vocabulary - not using big words unnecessarily when there are more apt ways to describe a scenario.

Regarding the short n crisp versions, we may definitely be losing out on good fiction. But atleast in my case, I really dont have the time for a full length novel these days . In school/college, my main pose would invariably be lying Vishnu style in bed with a novel, devouring it in 24-48 hrs. I miss those days too.

Regrading the inanimate surroundings issue : well, I am not referring to events or objects that may inspire them. I refer to the two page long description of the shrubs,the bushes and the gardeners clothes of the three storey mansion in which the story is to unfold :)) Even classics like Day of the Jackal spent a few too many pages painting the surroundings. Sure, you want the reader to see what you envision, but sometimes just a 'heres a house, theres a bad guy, lets go visit him' would be just fine for me too :D
Roshan said…
Try it out. I dont think you will be disappointed.
Roshan said…
Please do. As I said above, there are certain positive merits which may make it worth your while.
Anonymous said…
A story with pictures in it is such a unique concept. We don't come across such books very frequently. It sounds like a very unique concept.
Ankita Ghosh said…
Hahaha! 'heres a house, theres a bad guy, lets go visit him' Indeed! Indeed! Agree with you there.. as long as the beauty of the tale unfolds the way it should we do have the poetic license to try different narrative styles... The one you just wrote down, I have been waiting to see some good literature come out of that bold style, and, believe me, I so believe that such a crisp style has its own set of promises.. good promises, yes :)

Vocabulary, well, isn't that subjective...? I mean I have met people who would not read something because there are words like 'subjective' and 'objective' - hope I'm being able to make my point. You have Ruskin Bond and you have Salman Rushdie - two extremes on the plane, and yet you wouldn't mind reading either.. Yes, I do absolutely get the point that big words must not be unnecessarily used but what irks is there are some who say they read literature but (there's no delicate way to put it) don't step beyond the contemporary 99 rs books that indulge in profane dialogues and glorify the petty thoughts. Such readers use this as an excuse - the presence of big words and twisted plots to not read something that is actually amazing. I know I am straying a bit, but there it is... it hurts when someone reads a C Bhagat or an E L James and judges a classic for its ambitious plot... And I'm sure you have met some too who are mislead into thinking that way..

Just penning the woes that all..
Roshan said…
thats the first thing that struck me as well - a unique concept. You need more people to take such risks.
Roshan said…
i guess you have a point regarding vocabulary.. considering people say India's best author is Chetan Bhagat, maybe it is detrimental that vocabulary isn't being given more importance... I guess I would look for a middle ground. Something where the narrative flows - John Conolly among fiction comes to mind - he writes such gut-wrenching tales of inhumanity, yet there is a feeling of poetry to the words.. you feel the loneliness of the protagonist, you empathise with him.
$$ said…
interesting! however i hope, love for novels and classics will not die!
Roshan said…
for those who love reading, there will be a lack of options. Novels and classics will always have a fine place in my heart, that much I know.
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Even I received first few pages for reviewing, and it has left a positive impression on me!

I shall write my take on it soon.
Roshan said…
Glad to see you agree. It should make for a good read once its out.