A River on the Wall | Stormy Hazarika | Book Review

Written by: Siddhartha Krishnan . 5 Min Read

Imagine that you are at your favorite hill station. A place, you think you know all too well. But on that day, you are approached by a tourist guide, who tells you about a breath-taking view, you may have missed. You are apprehensive, but decide to give in to his persuasive nature. Elated, he grabs your hand, but walks you through those same roads you’ve been before! The shops, restaurants, and marketplaces you pass by are all familiar. “What is the catch?”, you wonder, and just as you begin to protest, he pulls you into a dark alley. You feel jittery and decide to bring the cheeky little guy to a halt. “What are you up to?” you ask. He stops, grins and vehemently kicks open a door. What you see, thereafter, leaves you breathless!

One-third into “A River on the Wall”, that is exactly how I felt. It was, as if, a forgotten bulb in the room had suddenly got switched on, after which everything became clearer. It was then that I realized, that here is an author, who is both brave and crafty, and that the title she has chosen is perfect for the book.

I was introduced to this book by an author friend who had written a detailed review of it in a reader’s group on Facebook. I was intrigued and had included it into my “TBR list” immediately. But I must admit, that I began reading it with some pre-conceived notions. I had thought of it to be a “lingering melancholy” with realistic, empathetic characters. It’s a genre that I do read but this book wasn’t just that, despite the underlying pathos, which was unmistakable. It is an epic tale of love, loss, betrayal, despair, guilt and guarded secrets. But there is more to this book than what meets the eye.

The author is a Professor of English, so my expectation with language and grammar were high. But what caught my eye was her choice of words—poetic and appropriate. Authenticity wasn’t sacrificed at the altar of demonstration, thankfully! The other commendable aspect of the writing was the use of allegories, metaphors and idioms which lent symmetry to the writing, thereby helping the reader visualize the scenes better. In fact, there were many instances where I felt that this book has the potential to be converted into a screenplay. Here are a few noteworthy quotes from the book:

“Sometimes, life is like an autumn wood, golden leaves and amber paths, dappled with sunshine.”

“Human emotion is such a complex thing. At times it is right there for the world to see. At others, no matter how deep one dives, an endless void meets the eye, an abyss of nothingness”

“And though Ryeed was relatively young, he felt old and tired, like Lear on the heath, alone in the storm.”

However, more than language, it is the intelligence with which the story has been crafted that deserves praise. The author weaves several impactful moments by treading through what may seem like the mundane. Hence, when these moments arrive, they do pack a punch. The generous use of soliloquies and one-to-one conversations is also interesting and they manage to take you into the mind of the characters.

The most impressive aspect of the storytelling though was the use of wit. Subtle humor to be precise. When you make bold decisions with your plot you can easily tilt to extremes with your storytelling and make it overdramatic or outlandish. But this is where the author shines. She uses humor and pathos intelligently, and by doing so keeps the story and its characters real and believable. In other words, she takes a big risk by being deceptively outlandish but comes out keeping all the traits of good literature intact, and that’s the newness that Stormy Hazarika brings to the table.

This is not to say that the book is without any flaws. The story covers several years in the life of its lead character (Ryeed), often jumping timelines, and there were moments where I felt that the author could have invested a little more to let the emotions linger. Also, I felt that the protagonist’s (Ryeed) character could have had a few more layers. However, different readers will perceive these aspects differently. Personally, if a book keeps me emotionally engaged from start to finish, it has served its purpose. And “A River on the Wall” does that without a shadow of doubt!

Hence, I strongly recommend this book to all who like reading good contemporary fiction. It deserves to be read because it is witty, clever, brave and skillfully crafted. I will give Stormy Hazarika’s “A River on the Wall” – 4.5/5. She is a remarkable storyteller, and I am looking forward to her next.

The book is available in both paperback and kindle formats. You can grab a copy of it from the Amazon link below:


Siddhartha Krishnan is the author of Two and a Half Rainbows – A Collection of Short Stories. He is also an enthusiastic blogger and on his website www.whatsonsidsmind.com, he regularly puts out his essays, articles, travelogues and film reviews.

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