Do the elusive dollmakers, on a strange island forever adrift, really exist? What makes the new government and countless other suspicious of them? Are they simply waiting to return and claim their home once again? Ronen Ghito would give his left hand to find out. But he needs Leela’s help. And Leela is too preoccupied, sitting under the watchful eyes of a cagey government, waiting for her Shyam to turn up on this very mysterious isle that exists on no map. When Leela does decide to cooperate with the government, she does it through irregular long missives and emails, now that her voice is mysteriously lost too, revealing in bits and pieces lost myths and disquieting tales about the dollmakers from the time of the Mughal emperors to the present.
As the author puts it, the books is Alice-like in its feel and treatment, the Dollmakers’ Island is an interesting perspective on the socio-political scenario in India through the ages. Her narrative style is fresh and interspersing today’s characters with the past historical figures is innovative and intriguing. The problem lies in defining the character, their emotional depth, their right place in the narrative. Too many characters are introduced too quickly in a haphazard manner. As a result, few of the characters comes out to be just puppets in the box and really have no significance to the main plot.
I have both bouquets and brickbats for the book’s dialogues, which are punched with clever one liners and carry euphemistic tone. Pay subtle attention to how the word ‘Dollmakers’ is changed to ‘smugglers’ to fool the government officials or how she manages to utilize Gandhiji’s glasses as an efficient prop at various plot points in the narrative. The problems arises when every character keeps throwing repartees, it is just not funny anymore. There is a streak of madness in the way story unfolds, but as they say it lacks appropriate method to back it up. As a result, it turns out to be an incoherent story which mars the experience of enjoying it more.
There are certain questions left unanswered or you are expected to guess them on your own in this fairy tale, which is not bad if you ask me. Problem is that some of the ideas are so down right stupid, you cannot forgive the writer for taking the readers for granted. It is only because of tongue-in-cheek humour that she manages not to bore you completely.
I hope that author next time she invests a little more on her characters than concentrating on creating best environment and setting for them. It’s an honorable attempt to do something different and for the sheer novelty, give it a shot.