Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Book Review: Magic in the Mountain, by Nimi Kurian

It’s a long while since I read a book essentially meant for children. A children’s book need not be about children, but Magic in the Mountain is, which would normally make it all the more unsuitable for an adult. Nevertheless, since I’ve followed Nimi Kurian’s writings in the Hindu for a while now, when I heard that her first novel has been published, I couldn’t resist buying Magic in the Mountain’s kindle edition, even though, as I just said, it is not really meant for those above the age of fourteen.

Nimi takes us to Coonoor, a little hill town nestled in the Nilgiri mountains. We meet two young kids, Priya and Pradeep, in tragic circumstances – their parents have been killed in a road accident. Aunt Sheila, their mother’s sister, is kindness personified and whisks the kids off to Coonoor where she lives. Coonoor is a magical place on its own but when Priya and Pradeep meet special characters such as Kitty the kitten and Sanjana Banerjee who is forever knitting, it takes on a special aura.

Magic in the Mountain reminded me of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five until Nikhil put in an appearance and then I was reminded of Blyton’s Barney Series. The two kids go exploring on bikes and because Nikhil doesn’t have one, he helps himself to Mr. Swaminathan’s bicyle without his permission. I’ll not disclose any more here, rather, I’ll will leave it to you to read this book for yourself and find out.

Nimi’s Coonoor has remnants of the 70s – it has Imperial Stores and Babu Tailors. However, environmental degradation has done much damage to the hills and Priya and Pradeep can only look on helplessly. Into this setting arrives a big, bad mystery, personified by Mrs. Manju Sinha, aka Madam Ladida, who knows a bit of magic and has two assistants in the form of a red blanket which can fly and a snake which doubles up as a butler. Alok, the evil Scientist, called Upset by his former classmates, is Madam Ladida’s main ally, until things change towards the end.

The kids land up in all sorts of troubles and their poor aunt is also dragged in. However, they have some sensible allies such as Professor Varadhachari, Subbiah, the park superintendent and Mr. Swamination, the proprietor of Imperial Stores. I do not want to say any more and give away the plot, save that it revolves around damage to the environment, a subject which is of interest to everyone in these days of climate change and its devastating consequences.

Nimi’s language is limpid as the tale unwinds with decent speed. I’m sure kids will love Magic in the Mountain and many an adult too!

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