Book Name: Innocence Lives in an Eyrie
Author: Vaibhav Saini
Publisher: Editorial Trance
Book Blurb: “There’s a teenager outside the studio with a gun to his head. He is threatening to shoot himself unless you interview him. He has a story that will make you believe there is no God,” they told Babudeep Roy. Innocence Lives in an Eyrie, set in the villages and metropolises across India, is a coming-of-age tale examining gender, identity, ambition, first love, friendship, and family obligations in a society mired in superstition and prejudice.
Review: Innocence Lives in an Eyrie is a heart wrenching tale full of emotions and a bit of everything. Drama, romance, politics and references to literature and literary figures combine in this unique story that few authors can manage.
The tale begins with an accused Raagini (a male with a female name) landing in the newsroom of Babudeep Roy. It takes a while before we come to know the full picture but the horrific crime grabs headlines and is treated as a sensational news item as is the norm in today’s mad media world.
“He wondered what made Raagini so bitter. It had to be more than his age. It had to be more than hormones. It had to involve love found and love lost.”
Later, a doctor is also invited on the show to tackle the issue of Raagini’s sexuality or gender. Babudeep also senses an opportunity to milk the audience’s interest in a unique LGBTQ story.
“Scientifically, this person is of male sex but bears a female gender identity. In other words, this person is a male to female transgender.“
Through a question-answer session, the tale moves forward into a flashback that reveals Raagini’s background. The author seems to have done a considerable amount of research for the book since it has an elaborate discussion on religious figures and LGBTQ community, both not very well explored in fiction.
Babudeep also has to confront his own demons and secrets. The theme of the novel is LGBTQ and how their rights are trampled upon even when the law may not target them explicitly. The interesting angles explored by the author in weaving this rather sad tale is what makes this book a masterpiece.
Raagini’s story mirrors the life of many such people who are constantly judged by society and have to remain closeted as mainstream acceptance remains an illusion.
The book is intriguing and has all the ingredients of a great novel. It opens with a bang ending, progresses slowly into a very interesting story and has a nice climax that will satisfy every reader.
The downside perhaps lies in the fact that the author borrows too heavily (and is influenced) from contemporary issues- such as the habit of mainstream media to sensationalise news, the corruption prevailing in the political system and the caste issues prevailing in India. The writing tends to go a bit overboard sometimes but the tale is strong enough to engage a reader’s interest. The author also frequently discusses Indian mythology in detail which only adds to the word count and does not relate to the main story of Raagini.
“Babudeep knew that Raagini had done a great job of reminding the viewers that heterosexuals were human and made human mistakes and had no moral standing to judge Raagini based on her sexuality and gender identity.”
If you are bored of cliched tales and are out in the market looking for something different, pick up this book.