Tuesday, 13 December 2011
When A Lawyer Falls In Love by Amrita Suresh – Book Review
I picked up this book because I was under the impression that lawyers almost never fell in love, at least to my knowledge, and I wanted to read an account of a genuine, 24 carat lawyer falling in love. You know, I thought I would find out (how a hard-nosed lawyer could possibly fall in love) and pass on the information amongst my friends, many of whom, like me, are practising lawyers – my once in a lifetime contribution to my legal fraternity.
I was disappointed. Amrita Suresh’s book is about law students and not lawyers, which is not such a bad thing, but then, it could have been about art students or medical students or engineering students for all the difference it would have made. If one is looking for those nuggets of detail specific to law schools and those who study there, those tales of intense competition, rivalry and camaraderie, moot courts, idiosyncrasies of senior lawyers and such like, information which only lawyers and law students can generate, one would be disappointed. To be fair to Suresh, the novel’s back cover explains that Suresh isn’t a lawyer and the preface discloses that her knowledge of law schools has been gained through a close friend who went to a reputed law school.
Suresh writes well. The sort of smooth, feel-good writing one would associate with the Hardy Boys or the Famous Five or maybe even Nancy Drew. Most of the time, the writing is meant to convey the ache in somebody’s heart, like this one: ‘‘Ankur, I made this card for you,’ Sonali said handing him a neat light blue card. There was a cute sketch of a chubby little girl holding a flower and looking down. Sonali was exceptionally good at drawing. Just as she was exceptionally good at everything else. Like tormenting him.’ The dialogues usually play to stereotypes, like this: ‘A bulb is easy to fix,’ the young female engineer replied, ‘a male ego isn’t.’
The plot revolves around affairs of the heart, as the title would indicate or rather, affairs of multiple hearts and one is in little doubt as to the outcome even though Ankur Palekar is baby-faced and diminutive and the object of his affection, Sonali Shah does show short-lived partiality for the tall and handsome Rohit Randhwah. Almost all the leading characters come through the novel without any damage or injury. I wouldn’t say that Suresh has fleshed out her characters very well – they are rather two dimensional, but her descriptions do suffice for this tale. For example, while introducing the reader to Pavan Nair, the fall guy on many an occasion, we are told that: ‘Next to Souvik sat Pavan Nair, a guy, it was said, with a mind the size of a mighty star. When viewed from the earth that is. His painfully obvious observations made those around him want to develop homicidal tendencies.'
Sonali Shah believes in astrology and if the explanations of the zodiac and exceptional amount of dialogues revolving around star signs are anything to go by, author Suresh must take the stars very seriously.
We are told that AIU College is one of the most reputed law colleges in India and it is fully residential. However, there are no concerns about bad food in the hostel mess or the other usual discomforts one would associate with hostel life. There are students from all over India, as befits a law college that is so very reputed. There are Holi parties, college cultural festivals where smart, pretty, handsome law students meet smart, pretty, handsome engineering students and everyone has a good time. When the story kicks off, Ankur Palekar and friends are in their third year and when one reaches the last page of this 230-page ‘very light read’, they have graduated and are ready to step into the big bad world of lawyers. There are a few mentions of exams, with the characters worried more about their love affairs and one doesn’t really notice how the years roll by.
What I hated most about this book is that Suresh doesn’t tell us which city or town AIU College is located in. I know that this may not be a big deal for many, but for me, the inability to tie the story to a location ruined the tale. On top of that, there are a number of faux pas which are bound to be made when the author is a non-lawyer. For example, after telling us that AIU College is fully residential, even for those students who stayed a stone’s throw away, we find one student leaving college for personal reasons and hoping to complete ‘his final year through correspondence’. One hears a professor remind the students of a law firm which has achieved a certain certification, ‘so that they could start taking things seriously since they were in the final year’. I doubt if there is any law school in India where the teachers (have to) prod students into taking their search for a corporate law job seriously. Students are usually much more clued into corporate law firms than their teachers.
Now don’t let my peeves dissuade you from buying this book. It’s well written and if you like chik-lits, you might well enjoy When A Lawyer Falls In Love.