Love in a Wooden Box by Yateen K Suman
Love in a Wooden Box is a debut novel by a young author. Talks about his college days with friends and all possible college activities. With a twist at the end that makes it a work of fiction. The setting though is not usual, it is a college located in the then state of Bihar called ISM. The place is real and apparently most characters in the story too.
In the first 80% of the book, the story seems absolutely autobiographical. I actually looked at the back cover to confirm that it was indeed fiction. The story begins with the protagonist’s first day at the college gate and ends with his last there. And there are 4 years in between these two days. Author talks in detail about the college life through the protagonists first person account of friends, ragging, senior-junior relationship, romance, festivals, sports tournaments, lectures, examinations, canteen, outings and yes politics too. He is no doubt proud of his prestigious college. And makes it a point to mention that people who could have gone to IIT chose ISM over it.
It is in the last 20%, that he starts building the plot for his thriller angle. There is a murder on campus followed by a series of terrorist attacks across the country. The protagonist and his friend try to solve the murder with no clue that it was linked to the terrorist attacks. They do not really solve the case. But keep chasing authorities to solve it but show bravery during an event. The element of suspense is weak and you know all the time who the culprit is. There is only a slight reference to this element in the beginning. The victim psychology has just been touched. And I think this could have been explored at a deeper level. In fact, it remains absolutely camouflaged in the character through the story.
Author has an engaging style of writing: breezy yet simple. He makes you go back to your college days. Remember all those friends you spent your years with especially if you have lived in a hostel. The level of detail would actually take you deep down your memory lane to those crazy festivals and anxiety before the exams as well as results. I love the naivety and the innocent optimism of the young authors, who still see the world as black and white. And believe that white can wash out the black with the set of virtues that we were taught by our parents and school teachers. Though we may have hardly seen anything like that in practice.
I think the book could have been 70-80 pages less than what it is. It would have made it crisp. Some events repeat across years and they are described in as much detail every year. Though with its length too, I read it in one go.
Read Love in a Wooden Box if you want a feel good light young reading or it has been a long time since you re-visited your college days.