03 December, 2020

The Emotion Of Smell

A book that falls short of the initial promise it holds for readers

The Emotion Of Smell
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Asmell is world...it is memory too." A promising phrase that occurs in the middle of the novel, as its heroine, Leela Patel, struggles to articulate her sense of the world to two Occidental masculine listeners. What Leela can't convey is the intimacy, the very private nature of a personal world of intense smells that delve beneath the commonplace to reveal the subterranean world of darkly pitted desire, of a bloodless nameless fear, of being a citizen of no country in a world where one's nationality is one's individual watermark.

Which brings me to the core of the novel's problem: the betrayal of reader expectation that stray phrases such as the above one raise. Jha's novel is original in its central conception: the granting to her heroine the gift/curse of smelling her way through her world. Leela Patel, a Gujarati of Kenyan birth, finds herself cast adrift at the critical age of 18 in a Parisian wasteland. Emotionally abandoned by her mother after her father's death in Kenyan race riots, forced to make a frightening journey to Paris alone (her mother goes with the...

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