July 16, 2009

Daphne Beal's "In the Land of no Right Angles" - Designed to Lack 'a' Perspective?

I picked up Daphne Beal's "In the Land of no Right Angles" simply because I happened to be at the local library without my 'to read' list. As always I fell prey to the newness of the setting, Nepal, a very small country perched in the Himalayan mountains.

The writer's sensuous descriptions of the various locales in the novel, especially Kathmandu and Jankat in Nepal were perhaps the high point for me. It was like a vicarious journey into this picturesque land which seemed untouched by the vagaries of the West except for the few adventure seeking tourists and mountaineers who come here. Alex, the protagonist in the novel, is one such visitor who comes back a second time only to say goodbye to the simple and kind people of a small Nepalese village, Jankat, that had hosted her for a few months while she was there working as student researcher. Her trek to and from Jankat makes for a vivid and captivating read. Ms. Beal has an innate ability to draw color, smell, sound, and texture into her writings in a way that transports the reader into her settings be it the seedy and dangerous red-light area in Mumbai, the crowded sweat-reeking streets of Calcutta, or then the pristine and alluring slopes of Jankat.

Given that the protagonist is a westerner, and a woman who travels East to this exotic land of Nepal and who “ wanted to come home different from what I’d been—bolder, wiser, happier”, the storyline was almost predictable for me as it followed a well trodden path - that of self dicovery for the protagonist, where she discovers a side to herself that she is reluctant to claim. This self discovery is made possible for Alex because of Maya, the 'other' woman in the story; a beautiful, young, and undaunted Nepali girl who is quite the enigma for Alex and also the reader unfortunately. The death of Maya's sibling haunts her, and all her actions are driven by this painful reality; however, most of her decisions are highly questionable as are the actions they result in. In the light of which, Alex's near obsession with Maya's well being becomes unjustifiable to the reader as it seems so obviously misplaced.

There are some other interesting characters in the novel like the young free spirited professor, Will, who practices sex as an art and charms native Nepalese girls and his research students to join him in his artistic endeavors. Then there is the Heathcliff like Karsan, who Alex has a soft corner for and eventually gets into a physical relationship with. But, like Maya, Karsan carries a lot of emotional baggage which to the reader remains unexplained and completely unnecessary, especially in the light of the ending. Which ultimately leads me to believe that this is perhaps what the writer meant for the reader to carry away : that there are 'no right angles'. Every perspective on the situation, no matter from what 'angle', has a flaw; there are ' no right angles'!

Ms. Beale's first novel, "In the Land of no Right Angles', despite all the questions it raises, is worth reading because it's summertime! If you are sitting at home, unable to vacation in a faraway place that you long to be in, this novel will give you wings!


Mariana Soffer said...

It seems to be a really interesting book to read, I am going to try and get it for when I go to the beach, besides I check the web for it and looks very promising. By the way the cover looks beautifull to me.
Thanks for sharing
Take care

Saadia said...

I love that you read so much. It is, unfortunately, a habit lost to people in my part of the world. And that fact strikes me every time I go vacationing in the West. People in the parks, on the buses, in the tubes...reading, reading everywhere. Beautiful!

Eshuneutics said...

A book with an interesting title...not certain about the characterisation. A review that half tempts me to read. Hope you are well.

Georg said...

Bonjour Id,

To tell you the truth right in the beginning: I am not very much interested in this book though you gave a good description.

It is the title that kept my attention. For many years I think that all those the right angles in our architecture are a real curse. To me it is living proof to what extent our spirit for creation and beauty has gone dry.

Look at those Gothic cathedrals or English landscape garden to see the difference.


Id it is said...

I can see why those historical architectural monuments and landscapes hold an essence of romance due to their lack of definitive geometry. However, you'd agree that the romance for unplanned construction and paving can be a virtual nightmare as I've experienced while traveling to and in certain places in S. E. Asia where circuitous and unmarked routes hedged by illegal constructions is no less than walking through and into your worst nightmare. :) Guess there is cause to be argued at both ends...

human being said...

hi Id... my dear friend... sorry i don't read your review... though i know how beautifully you introduce books...

i came to tell you that you are one of the best human beings i've ever met (virtually!)
i never forget all those comments you left for me during these past weeks... at a time i was witnessing an unbelievable brutality and suppression which are still continued... at a time i felt nobody knew what was really happening to us... at a time i wanted some brave support, you came and left those encouraging words... you did A LOT dear friend for the crow... without even noticing it...
it was just because of you and other dear friends that i could stand up once again...

thank you dear friend...

and you know how i always loved your comments on my works... they are always thoughtprovoknig and challenging... written by an analytical mind... and a knid heart...

love and peace to you...

Georg said...

Hallo Id,

I went a bit down your blog so as not to embarrass you.

The question is are you a man or a woman?

Some time ago I asked Berenice and she said you are probably a woman and I agreed with that.

But in on of your posts you mentioned you were looking at a ball game, Rugby or football. That made me doubt because there are very few women interested in this activity.

So what??

And that is not the only question. What means "I me my"?


Id it is said...

It took a long time for me to decide on an anonymous blogger identity, and your comment actually gives credence to my belief that anonymous writings are received more openly by readers in the world of blogging. However, this is merely an opinion, and by saying this I don't mean to make a quality judgment on those who do otherwise :) As for sports, you are absolutely right about my love for soccer/futbol; I love it and I don't see how being a male or female would have changed that..:)
"I Me My" - You'd agree that there is a certain egotism involved when people write on a blog which lies open to the entire world, and that is what my name suggests that everything written by 'iditis' ( id it is) on 'I Me My' is an egotistical outpouring and can verily be disregarded if it offends anyone's sensibility or understanding :) ... I guess it si a disclaimer of sorts.
Georg, your comment lead me to ponder on various issues that I had never given a thought to; thanks!

Georg said...

Bonjour Id,

Thanks for answering. So let the mystery continue till you write something unequivocal.

As to your name, you are absolutely right. Writing and being read has something to do do with "I me my". For years and years I was enraged - from time to time - to hear, see and read people talking about subjects while I had absolutely no possibility to answer. The Internet changed all that and I am thankful.

So let's go on both till kingdom comes.

By the way, in one of your comments you mentioned going to Nantes/France and you asked if I have any opinion about the town. Well, the truth is I have never really been there. Some years ago I drove my wife's father to the hospital there to have an eye operation. Afterwards we went to a restaurant "MaƮtre Kanter" to have sauerkraut and sausages.


Georg said...

Hallo Id,

Here is a link to three videos made by the Nantes tourist office (Office de Tourisme):

Just past it and have a look. The town is certainly worthwhile to see.



Id it is said...

Thanks a lot for the link and for taking the trouble to find it! It isn't me but friend who will be in Nantes for two semesters. I will pass on this information to her; I am sure it'll be of interest to her. Once again...Thanks that's awfully nice of you.

berenice said...

ha!! hola herr Georg and ID

so, my actual comment about I Me My gender was more like:
is he a woman?
or if she is a man?
she's a great man or he's a great woman... 'cause i can read her/his both ways... i LOVE the mystery involved :) and herr Georg, don't try to solve every mystery, just seat, read, relax, and enjoy his/her blog, which is great btw... i wish i'd thought of the "anonymous: before too, but am afraid i become womanly bitchy many times, so i'd show eventually that i am short-tempered opinionated mexican woman, heh heh

ID, you've done a GREAT job with the anonymous personality ;)