Review: She Will Build Him a City by Raj Kamal Jha

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She Will Build Him a City is a poetically written tale that follows a cast of characters including an elderly woman, an orphan, a killer, and a dog. Set in India in a variety of settings, Jha tries to thread together disparate stories.

The story follows largely unnamed characters through their struggles in modern-day India, where despite living in a world of cell phones and modern medicine, most of the characters live in squalor, unable to afford even the most basic of necessities. The story incorporates elements of the unreal and magical realism.

The stories are largely thread through two characters: an elderly woman whose daughter has left her and an infant named Orphan who, by a twist of fate, toddles out of the orphanage where he has been kept and into the world with only a stray dog as his guide.

Jha’s novel isn’t so much a plot-driven story, nor is it a character study. It feels a bit fairy-tale like and meanders about, seemingly without purpose. Accordingly, there’s no really fast-paced plot, and there’s not really any character development. It seems more like a snapshot, blurred by magical realism elements. I think that can be appealing if it’s what you’re in the mood for.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the novel. It’s never really clear if some of the character are doing what they say they are doing (the killer character in particular) or if the character actually exists. Part of this appeals to me. I like a bit of mystery in my stories. However, I thought it was often too confusing and a bit disjointed. The characters and their stories’ endings often seemed rough and incomplete.

I can’t really speak to the style much. The story’s grammar is going to be shifted around and some of the style may change as a result.

Overall, I think I wanted to like this story more than I did. I’d give it a weak 3/5, but would say it’s promising.

Book Depository:
Release date: March 3, 2015

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review


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