|Being Someone by Adrian Harvey|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The story of a relationship - of all relationships - of how it grows, of how early on the seeds of destruction are sown. An intriguing tale, exquisitely written. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: May 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
The relationship between a mahout and his elephant is close: some have said that it's rather like a marriage. On the surface it seems almost idyllic with an obvious affection between man and beast - that their spirits were water of the same pool, but all is not quite as it seems. Iravatha was the magnificent elephant who, year in, year out, led the Maharajah's parade only this year there was a dreadful accident and Annayya, his mahout, slipped beneath the elephant's foot - and was killed. They'd been together for more than half a century and beautiful, intelligent Iravatha knew what this meant.
James was not quite whole. He worked in the art world, although not as an artist, but it seemed that he might have met his soulmate when he encountered Lainey Driscoll - an American, a professional woman, working in London. At first it was her beauty which attracted him but the relationship developed and they eloped to Gretna Green. Corny - yes - but they wanted to do it that way and when they went to India Lainey understood his love of the country. But James was flawed. There came a time when loving was no longer enough for him. He missed the taste and feel of being in love - and began an affair.
The first point which you need to understand is that the writing is exquisite. Adrian Reynold is the sort of author who could write about the phone book and you wouldn't be able to stop reading. There's a passage about the young Annayya being up on Iravatha for the first time. He captures the fear, the resentment of the boy, the almost vertiginous height and the gradual adjustment as he becomes aware of the beast and its pleasure at feeling Annayya's hands on his skull. It's less than a page, but I've read it several times and on each occasion I'm conscious - vividly conscious - of how the boy must have felt. It's just a small part of the story but it tells you what you need to know about the whole.
India is captured, with kindness and understanding. The colours and scents rise sharply from the page, but in many ways that's easier than making rainy, workaday London come to life, particularly parts such as Balham and Bermondsey, but Reynolds does it well and you sense a love of the city, that it's a pleasure for him to use it as the background to his story.
It's a while since I last read Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje but in Being Someone I had that same sense of not knowing where the story was going but being more than happy to leave myself in the hands of the storyteller, confident that all would be revealed and so it was although not until the very last pages of the book did everything come together. Like Divisadero it's a book I'll return to, happy to know that knowledge of the ending will not in any way spoil the pleasure of the reading. I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.
For a harsher look at modern India, have a look at The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
You can read more book reviews or buy Being Someone by Adrian Harvey at Amazon.co.uk
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