Book of the Month: The King’s Harvest by Chetan Raj Shreshtha
The book contains two novellas An Open-and-Shut Case and the eponymous The King’s Harvest. Don’t look at the hype and the sales numbers and this is easily one of the best English-language books to come out of India. The writing is adroit, literary merit of the text considerable and the juxtaposition of the dark and the criminal with the innocent and the straightforward is hair-raising and heart-tugging at the same time. The vivid elucidation of not just what is picturesque about Sikkim, but also of its towns and villages, police stations and homes, people and their ambiguous characters and moralities is the cherry on the top. While it is unambiguously a “book from Sikkim”, the last one makes it relatable to all, especially those who have grown up in small places.
You can read and understand the stories in many ways. Since that is one of the charms of the books, I am not going to tell you what all I read in the book. I must confess I felt overwhelmed at times. But you must read it and decide for yourself!
The hardcover edition that I read has also been produced beautifully. The cover is bewitchingly beautiful and interiors are well-done too.
Below is the book description from the publisher’s website.
Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, in a village above the Rangeet river in Sikkim, a woman called Kamala hacks her husband, Police Constable Puran, into forty-seven pieces, then walks to the nearby police station and turns herself in. At first, the murder seems an open-and-shut case to Dechen, the tough, foul-mouthed, prickly lady cop in-charge of the investigation. But as she begins to delve into the lives of Kamala and Puran, she discovers a world of lies, deceit and love gone wrong, where nothing is as it seems, and the guilt of murderers is difficult to establish.
On a day of endless rain, a man emerges from thirty-two years of isolation to meet his king, whom he owes a share of the harvest from his fields. Journeying across leech-infested forests and forbidding valleys, he tells his children the story of his life one that has been full of drama and magic. But the biggest miracle of all awaits him in Gangtok…
These two novellas, united by their strong sense of place, showcase Chetan Raj Shresthas enormous gifts as a storyteller. Magical, gritty, nerve-wracking and stylish in equal measure, this is an exceptional debut.