The Evening Gone: Suguna Iyer
July 13, 2002

That Suguna Iyer writes as Suguna Ramanathan and is the author of such books as Iris Murdoch: Figures of Good and The novels of C.P. Snow: A Critical Introduction did make me apprehensive…. What do we have here? I wondered. A very grave work full of sub texts and references that takes away from the joy of reading and reduces it into a chore. A book that literary deacons will recommend and no one will ever read….

Suguna Iyer's The Evening Gone is none of that. By the second page, I knew that here was a book I was going to thoroughly enjoy. A good old fashioned read.

The Evening Gone is a book that is layered with stories. On the one hand, there are the three scientists N.S. Ramachandran, Subramaniam, and Seshadiri and an account of egos and scientific discoveries…on the other hand the book is studded with the stories of women, wives and sisters who are forever relegated to the shadows. There is Meenakshi who years to learn Sanskrit but is condemned to spend her life as a shaven headed widow. There is Tripuram whose intense love for music finds no expression. And there is Smruti, the narrator who leads the reader through the various lives and stories populating this book. Connecting, what seems to me later, that has really no connection. Dreaming of Oxford and poetry. With no housewifely virtues that peeves her husband and a great admiration for Nehru that peeves him even further.

But what makes The Evening Gone so very readable is Suguna Iyer's characters and her descriptions of the everyday[within the period frame of the narrative]. There is no attempt to turn the Palakkad Brahmin into an exotic creature and nor is it an anthropological study of customs and manners. Instead what we have are sometimes horrifying and sometimes funny but all very truthful accounts of the Palakkad Brahmins.

The book's only weakness is its scantiness; much as the scientific part is well written, I wish the author had devoted the energy and space to some of the other characters. Like Sambasiva Iyer who begins with great promise and is then abandoned.

Despite this, Suguna Iyer's The Evening Gone is a book that revives the almost forgotten art of storytelling within the realm of contemporary fiction. Praise be the lord….

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