I must admit that in the beginning, this book reminded me a lot of Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss’. It was probably the Himalayan setting, grandparents, a young girl living among mostly older people and the presence of the ‘Liberation Front’ in the background. But its just a coincidence, as ‘Indian Summer’ veers away soon enough.
Fourteen year old Sarla finds herself in the town of Daroga, with her grandparents, after her vacation plans go awry when her mother is pulled away on account of work. Though Sarla’s last trip was six years back, which ended with between her mother and grandparents, she adjusts soon enough and even manages to befriend Bina, the 15-year-old granddaughter of her grandparents’ household help.
The author makes a smart move by bringing in both girls as narrators of the book and we’re able to juxtapose the similarities and differences between the two girls. They’re both lonely souls in their own ways, and yearning for a more ‘normal’ childhood, they both have a not-so-regular relationships with their respective mothers, but the sheer class difference makes each others’ lives almost incomprehensible. Their friendship however, helps Sarla understand more about Bina’s life and that of Bina’s mother, Shobharani, Bandit queen of the hills.
Though the book covers some ground on the condition of the poor in villages, women’s rights, class differences, it takes backstage when the plot moves on. Despite an attempt at a twist in the tail, the predictability of the plot and the stereotype secondary characters – despite their potential, takes a bit away from this book. But I liked it for its simple telling and the vivid description of life in a hill town. The kind of book that goes with cold nights and hot chocolate.