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Kanyakumari by Hazel Manuel


Two friends, Rachel and Gina travel to India on a holiday trip settling for a time in Kanyakumari. Being long time travel companions, they went sightseeing, made friends, and drank on drinks and sunsets on Sarada’s beach shack.

But something seems not right. A week after, Rachel was off to Mumbai with Pravi, a friend they just met, and Gina keeps to herself. Meanwhile, letters dated years ago sent to Perelle by a woman named Sandrine juxtaposes into the scene. What was Gina hiding? Was it proper for Rachel to just leave without much adieu? Who is Sandrine?

These questions are the root of this; I shall call it, ‘coming of wisdom’ novel which I as a reader also came into. It was quite unpredictable and unexpectedly making me wary in the foreshadowing of things. There is a certain awareness drifting between the words, a subtle dawning of things, tweaking my alertness and yet I couldn’t know which or what will hit me.

Kanyakumari also narrates as a traveler’s journal. Each character’s account of India displays a colourful contrast of its inherent beauty and brazen unpleasantness which brings the cultural differences and local flavours in sharper relief. I preferred this view when travelling (or when writing travel books) devoid of embellished romanticism and more of a search for genuineness with the soul nudging itself into contact.
In the beginning, I gravitated towards Rachel’s musings, finding Gina too volatile. But further into the book, when the layers of mystery started to unravel and layers of personalities began to unfold, Gina stirred up my deep curiosity while the mysterious Sandrine's imparted thoughts started to make sense slow and subtle, like the gradual light of a sunrise.

Hazel Manuel writes akin to the multiple flavors of India itself, with a prodding impact as she combines the grim truths of likely realities, the yearning for the spiritual, adversity on friendships and awareness of oneself. It seemed like a spicy adventure though brooding consciousness weighed over everything with a dash of charged attraction between characters thrown in. 

It was rather short but packs with sensory delight, quite rich and thought provoking.

Summary

When close friends and seasoned travellers, Rachel and Gina, take a trip to India, Rachel expects the usual round of sight-seeing and collecting experiences, but she is not prepared for the secret that Gina is harbouring. Interwoven with this unfolding drama is the story of Sandrine, who writes letters home to her brother as she travels around India in the late 1960s.

In a tense narrative that moves between two periods, we take a journey that is both sumptuous and dark. Has Rachel placed herself in danger? What is at the root of Gina’s anxiety? And what is Sandrine’s place in this story of three women making interior journeys as they travel?

Title: Kanyakumari
Author: Hazel Manuel
Genre: Suspense, Cultural, 
Published: July 2014
Publisher: Cinnamon Press
Rating: ♨♨♨ 1/2 (3 and a half - An unusual and rich narrative with good tension and slow awakening.)

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