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A Brain-teaser

Kishore Thukral

By Neelum Saran Gaur
Halcyon Books, Allahabad, 2005, pp. 215, Rs. 220.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 1-2 January-February 2006

Now here’s a bold book that attempts to bring together in its leaves three literary giants whose writings belong to three entirely different genres. No mean task this, considering also that the gentlemen were not contemporaries, despite being very nearly so.   Charles Dickens is widely regarded as first and foremost a storyteller, and that was how the contemporary public viewed him. That his works reflected the rapid changes that were occurring in the wake of the Industrial Revolution did not, in his own eyes, make him a practical reformer. Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings, especially his series on Sherlock Holmes, on the other hand seldom dealt with social and political issues of the time, and this despite him being a keen crusader for social reform. In fact Doyle twice ran for Parliament, albeit unsuccessfully. As regards P.G. Wodehouse, his interest in the politics of the time was woefully lacking, even though the time in which he lived is generally acknowledged as the most violent epoch in the history of humankind. Indeed the two World Wars seem to have had little impact on the writer and his oeuvre.   Bringing these three literary giants together, therefore, and knitting their immortal characters into the fabric of a singular story is a Herculean task. Add to that the chore of replicating their respective language, both Victorian converse and contemporary, somber and comic, lucid and mystifying, and what you have is a sure-fire formula for trouble. But not so for Neelum Saran Gour, who accomplishes the endeavour with the proficiency of a seasoned writer. Hence we have an intriguing narrative that opens at 221 Baker Street, inhabited as usual by Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and frequented by Watson. The new addition to the locale is Wodehouse’s inimitable stiff upper lip, Jeeves, who is now in the employ of the master detective. And lending mystery and conundrum to the plot are Dickens’s David Copperfield, Estella, Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist and their inexplicable experiences with an enigmatic character that belongs completely to Saran Gour’s own imagination.   The story proceeds at a fast pace, as mysteries should, in order to sustain the reader’s interest. Holmes’ and Watson’s attention is drawn from the ordeals of one Dickensian character to another, from the curious case of David Copperfield’s death to Estella’s immolation, to Nickleby’s and Twist’s twin murder. There ...

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