Title: False Ceilings
Author: Amit Sharma
Publisher: Lifi Publications Pvt. Ltd.
Readers who are accustomed to easing slowly into a story will probably want to get a grip on their socks before settling down with Amit Sharma’s debut novel False Ceilings. The story leaps out of the blocks, giving us Aaryan, one of the many protagonists that populate the story, in the stressful mindset where he equates life with an ‘If-Then-Else’ statement. The narration jumps between a distant future and flashbacks. The story takes on a meandering course with characters introduced in almost every chapter and one can only connect the dots after having meticulously read what the author has to offer. It can be a little confusing but if one can stick to it, the plot is promising.
The book begins in the current period, moves briefly to an imagined future almost 50 years from the present day and then transports us to the Dalhousie of pre-independent India where we are introduced to Kanshiram and his household. His daughter, Shakuntala, is a pampered baby. We get glimpses of her life and later her lineage. On her wedding night in 1946, she is gifted a secret to draw on judiciously once the moment comes as she moves on from the green valleys of Dalhousie to a village in Punjab that is reeling under the communal hostility of 1947 and from the Delhi of 1950s with its exciting whiff of independence to the Delhi of 1970s drenched in the hippie culture. The secret is fortuitously passed along, concealed beneath insecurities and jealousies, sheltered in its vanity and leaving a shadow of wreck as when her great-grandson by chance discovers the furtive he is bewildered by the malevolence that flowed in his family's blood.
A passage from the book reads: “Sometimes people go through a lifetime of pain by holding a secret that could have changed everything. It is an intoxicating addiction, an act of dominance to know that you hold something in your grip that could have changed the life of a person you detest.” This in fact is the crux of the story. Secrets are bad news in real life but for readers these secrets are what keep them hooked to a story. Amit has done a great job of maintaining this secrecy till the very last page all the while tantalizing and egging the readers to turn the page.
Amit is guilty of over-plotting this novel, packing it with developments that, while they may be unexpected and diverting, aren’t really necessary and could have been done away with. Yes, this book leaves you constantly unsure of what lies ahead. But the writer slows down frequently enough to illuminate the darkened, delicate recesses of his characters, so that one doesn’t feel obviously manipulated, thrust forward by his storytelling structure. Not everything succeeds in these pages. A few plot twists are more convenient than credible. Yet Amit Sharma’s False Ceilings remains a satisfying yarn about folks trying to surmount the limits of their heredity and circumstance, overcome the inevitability of fate and find the power within themselves to get beyond their own pains and thus transcend in spite of all odds.
Having studied M. Tech in Computer Science from Kurukshetra University, Amit Sharma is currently working as a Software Engineer in Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) for the last ten years. His wife is a teacher and they are blessed with a daughter who is in her terrible twos.
I'd like to thank the author for letting me review his book. I do hope you end up liking the book when you read it. Thank you so much for stopping by, and happy reading!
*'I received a free copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.'