little grey lies by Hédi Kaddour

little grey lies by Hédi Kaddour bares the lies in which an individual entangles oneself in order to please the society. The storyline is simplistic. Max, a journalist meets Lena, his singer friend (read ex-beloved) in London, gets intrigued by the Battle of Mons and its veteran Colonel Strether, and starts regularly meeting him for an interesting story. Kaddour must be credited for having kept the narration simple and yet filling it in with layers of intellect and self-reflection within the lines. At times, it compels the readers to keep wondering how many lies they really come face to face with each day.

The story distinctly talks about finding one’s identity in the world. One tends to build an identity devoid of happiness and contentment for showing to the world. Lena is prone to daydreaming about a happy blissful life with her partner, which otherwise is not so happy. She tries to raise her voice in an attempt to make her opinions matter but soon tends to lose most arguments and agrees to what her partner says in order to keep him happy while lying to herself all along. Max on the other hands frequently meets Lena trying to gauge if she still has any feelings left for him. He hopes that one day they might see the world together.

Through Lena, the author shows how women are made to compromise quite so often for society and in the name of it. She understands very well that the relationship will neither last long nor have any future, but still holds onto her bondage. It is mostly because she creates a shell of false protection and hierarchy amongst her peers through her relationship. One slight mistake and her entire image will crumble down. It is not that she does not try to break free, but what stops her is the fact that it is easier to think of breaking away but difficult to accept it once done. This questions the rationality of binding oneself despite knowing the ultimate outcome. However, if she succeeds, not only will she have a happier life but also imbibe the truth that women are capable of living without support.

The era in which the story is set in plays a crucial part in shaping the mindset of the characters. London in the 1930s is completely in the garbs of patriarchy and male monotony in society. Women are not allowed to leave their homes or linger around post evening unless they are in the company of men. Forgetting the existing pay difference in the daily wages, women holding important positions in the office are ordered to vacate their seats for the war-returned heroes. They are also subjected to mental torture living with their husbands/ sons/ partners who often develop PTSD. These are clear indications that women are not allowed to have a voice of their own. That is why even Lena is almost always seen in the company of either Max or her partner. It reflects the kind of world where women’s individuality is a complete lie. But the twist in this tale comes when Max and Lena meet a stranger who is courageous enough to defy these patriarchal rules and carve out a path of existence. In a society that swears by the strict rules of conduct for women, someone dares to defy them and mingle with the society bluffing them every single time. It is actually quite shameful to see that individuals need to take such drastic steps to carve an identity for themselves.

To be honest, though the book talks of the 1930s, readers can openly relate to the scenario today and still find that nothing has majorly changed. Individuals still fight for their choices, their existence, their right to live the way they want to, and for society to accept their truth. But what has changed is that people are more accommodating towards accepting facts rather than building castles of lies around them like yesteryears. Even if they do build alternate identities for themselves, it is remarkable to see how true they appear to be and how slowly they become the truth for the individual and for the society. Hence, they become ‘grey lies’ – neither the truth and nor a complete bluff.

The novel speaks of the on-going struggles within oneself and with the society to establish an individual’s identity. Many succeed in the long-drawn and emotionally draining fight. Many succumb and continue living far from the truth in a life of little grey lies.

No of pages: 176

Publisher: Seagull Books

Available on: Amazon/ Flipkart/ Seagull Bookstore

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Tape: Steven Camden

Steven Camden’s Tape is a narration between time.  A daughter rummages through her mother’s room and chances upon a completely different side of her parents that was yet unknown to her.  The story follows Ameliah and how she discovers the untold love story of her parents. Traveling back to an era gone by, understanding her parents much more than she ever could; Ameliah learns how she came to being all through the narrations of a Tape. It is often said that sometimes even though the loved ones perish, their memories reside forever. Camden makes sure to freeze memories in a Tape in order to drive ahead the storyline.  The story was published some five-six years ago, and in all honesty that an author could so beautifully play with an object deemed to be obsolete in the modern world is commendable.

Child Psychology at Play

Camden is quite successful in capturing the essence of child psychology. No matter which decade or era we talk about, the thought process of a child remains significant. While Ameliah tries her level best to dig out information about her parents from an unknown friend of her fathers’ who suddenly rings her doorbell one fine day; she is also often seen keeping herself in her mother’s shoes with respect to the choice of songs, playing the guitar and through many habitual similarities. This only suggests that she is frequently reminded of her mother with whom she could spend only very little time. Quite similarly the voice on the Tape is torn between the records he made for his lost mother and a final parting gift he wants to make for his beloved. Entering the teen years throws a child into a vortex of emotions and feelings that he/she had been thus unaware of, and this vortex is further aggravated by relationships.

The Web called Relationship

Much that one thinks it’s easier for a child to adjust to newer situations than an adult, it is often forgotten that a child’s mind and heart are more delicate than that of an adult’s. It is difficult to imbibe shocks as a child than it is to do the same when one is older. The author brings Ameliah and the voice on the Tape a notch closer through the shared bonding over personal loss.  While Ameliah loses her parents and moves in with her grandmother, the voice upon the loss of his mother has to adjust to a step-mum and step-brother. For a child it is difficult to give the place of a parent to a new individual, not counting the step-sibling rivalry which automatically falls into place. Camden plays with relationships through many layers in the story.  It is interesting to note that every individual has grey areas instead of complete black and white.

The Emotion-Coaster Ride

Tape is an emotionally draining story. What might seem like a straight forward narration of a story through a time portal, manages to take every reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. Uncovering one’s past is not easy and sometimes one ends up questioning and judging the actions of the people. Whether it is Ameliah, her grand-mother, the voice, all have a past and an emotional aim in life. But what is interesting is the final twist in the tale which defies all rationale of love and brotherhood and raises an underestimated character to one of the most respectful of all.

A Story conjured in an Alternate Reality

 Tape is nothing short of fairy tale love story conjured in an alternate reality. Reading the complete story is bound to spring mixed responses. While some might discard the entire concept as illogical, some might grace it with an understanding that the novel is a work of fiction. But nevertheless, if the pages of a book fail to instill in me an alternate reality with experiences and situations which are usually unheard of but might have a 1% probability of occurring in the universe; the book is a winner already!

Publisher:  Harper Collins UK

No. of Pages: 363

Available at: Amazon/ Flipkart

Rating: 3.5/5