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Manisha Chaudhry

By Hanne Bramness . Translated into English by Marietta Taralrud Maddrell 
Eklavya Publications, Bhopal, 2014, pp. 156, Rs. 110.00


If you like your young adult novel sepia-tinted, then this book is for you. The beautifully detailed cover illustration of lilies in shades of grey, beige and the cleverest touch of red captures the mood of the book. It is a sombre account of twelve year old Evelyn’s journey from Argentina to war-torn England. While war tears families asunder, Evelyn’s predicament of turning into Lynette and being banished with her little sister Winnie, to the industrial town of Nottingham leaves a trail of loose ends in the schema of the novel. However, it is to the author, Hanne Bramness’s credit that she builds mood and character so skillfully that the reader only wishes for Lynette to emerge as her own person from the grey fog of Nottingham, duly rewarded for her grit. The loose ends remain but do not jar enough to distance you from the fortunes of the tough and tender heroine. The journey from sunny and white-hued Argentina to the cold and grey shores of England delineates all the family dynamics through the eyes of Evelyn. She is sharp and sensitive and often self-critical and you share all her apprehensions about times to come and the inexplicable undercurrents in her parents’ relationship. As her brother is born on sea and they reach England, her father disappears quite abruptly only to reappear near the end. Her mother is waif-like, mysterious and absent too, only to reappear at moments where she adds to Lynette’s woes with an extra baby instead of providing her succour. Lynette and her sister are sent away to live in Nottingham with a step-motherly landlady Mrs. Nuttall, who is firmly typecast to be angry or drunk. This forces Lynette to be resourceful and brave to keep Winnie and herself fed, presentable and casting about for other friends. The industrial soot-laden landscape of Nottingham is woven skillfully into the narrative. Young Italian immigrant Tom stands in a shaft of sunlight and soon becomes a significant part of Lynette’s coming of age. New feelings blossom even under grey skies and his family’s warmth and close bonds provide a much needed counter point to Lynette’s strangely cold and snobbish clan. Tom’s character however remains somewhat unformed as he is soon swallowed by the war only to return as an inmate of the mental health facility presumably with PTSD. Lynette helps him ...

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