Book Review: The Monsters Still Lurk by Aruna Nambiar

Book Name: The Monsters Still Lurk

Author: Aruna Nambiar

Publisher: Rupa

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4.8/5

Book Blurb: It is 1991. As Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated and a new government comes to power, setting in motion a process of economic reforms that will transform India, an ordinary family is about to experience detours from the traditional middle-class script of their lives. Over the next quarter century, as the world around them changes in ways unexpected, their lives too wind along uncharted trails, sometimes sunlit, sometimes shadowy and forbidding.

Review: The Monsters Still Lurk is not a horror story. It is a wonderful story about people with ordinary lives and through it, Aruna Nambiar tells the story of a society in transition.

It is almost criminal to weave such a nice tale and then spoil everything by giving it a horrible name. Even the cover has dark undertones and conveys the look and feel of a horror story. But apart from the horrible cover and the name, everything else is good in Monsters Still Lurk.

The tale is simple and is about a nondescript family who have ordinary lives and middle class ambitions. The initial story is about the son Govind who is in the US and falls in love with an American girl. Like many Indian families, his family is hesitant at first, even scandalised but they finally come around and accept the son’s choices. However, not without some drama first.

The tale is very simple and recounts the daily lives of a family moving between Bangalore, Kerala and Mumbai. Set in the backdrop of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, it tries to depict changing society through the lens of one particular family.

“Come to think of it, does anybody really dream of growing up and having your parents choose somebody for you? Does anybody fantasize about the first meeting surrounded by relatives, the first night fumbling around a person you barely know, exposing your hairless chest and skinny legs to a stranger?”

Ordinary stories are the best for the characters are believable, their lives tend to mimic ours and are not fanciful. Bulk of the story is devoted to match-making and the charade that often accompanies love marriages in India.

The characters are well developed and varied with a Shivam mama that is a happy-go-lucky person with a simple music shop. He plays the role of a trouble maker and is instrumental in dousing fires.

Aruna’s writing is powerful and she is good at writing descriptions. The background humour serves as a sauce for this otherwise bland tale that serves to contrast the complexities in the lives of its characters.

The Monsters Still Lurk can be a potential sleeper hit novel but may well escape a reader’s eye because of the cover and the title. But don’t go by the surface and you will be enthralled by this passive tale.

The cover and title must be revised for future editions. This book should sell but first impressions are also important. Two points deducted (one for the cover and one for the tile). Not blaming the author because we all know how publishing works and it is likely that the author has little say in deciding it.

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