“Love, the poet said, is woman's whole existence.” – Virginia Woolf
Renowned author C Radhakrishnan’s book ‘Heart-Rending Times’ is the second book in the Arjun trilogy of books. It is set in the time period between 1970’s and 80’s in India. It tells the tale of a group of people dealing with life in its various hues as much as it tells the story of a nation coming to grips with vast socio-political and economic changes. Anuradha is a woman extraordinaire and is often a living metaphor for the country she resides in. She is strong and steadfast even in the face of the harshest of challenges. She is strength, she is power, and she is love. Even gods and demons will not be able to break her willful spirit.
Since the story is set a few decades back it fits the description of a historical novel. That being said, the historical events described merely form a backdrop for the narrative and are not the main focus. And I love novels which are set in places and time period that I am not too familiar with. India has always fascinated me and it was mouth-watering to get to know this country and its people from a critical time period. The seventies and eighties were a different period altogether in the U.S. as well. A lot of social and political changes were taking place and it was interesting to note that half way across the world, India too was going through this strange upheaval.
The story revolves around four principal characters in Anuradha, Ashok, Nikhil and Devendra. I really don’t want to reveal the plot or explain the characters in great detail because then you will miss out on the elation of discovering the extraordinary circumstances these people find themselves in. Since I don’t know much about the culture of the land, I don’t know how much has been portrayed as real and how much has been added for dramatic effect. But the character of Devendra, who is a police officer, will sicken you to your stomach. His actions are evil and in part reflective of the institutional decay – the powers that control him. The lives of Anuradha and Nikhil are an epic journey and you will feel like you are shadowing them through life’s various upheavals. The angst and anger in Ashok is such a common sentiment found in young men everywhere who had to grow up in a challenging environment.
This work of fiction is sure to leave you dumbstruck with the genuine characters and emotions that will pierce even the harshest of critics. The narrative is staggeringly beautiful; the scenes themselves are deep and rich. This is one of those books where you will laugh along with the characters, cry with them, be frightened and infuriated together with them.
The book ends in the best way possible, I’m not going to mention it but the final fate of all the four main characters is a perfect summation of the strength and dignity of these characters and their story. This is a gorgeous and beautiful story that has been made accessible to worldwide audiences. I salute the author and the translator.
Paperback: 370 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 26, 2015)