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Posted at: Jul 16, 2017, 1:26 AM; last updated: Jul 16, 2017, 1:26 AM (IST)BOOK REVIEW: SNOWFED WATERS: A NOVEL BY JANE WILSON-HOWARTH

A journey to self

This beautifully narrated tale is interspersed with want and waste, horror and humour. Even the grimmest of situations may wrest a smile from the reader

Mona

From a scarred and scared to super confident being, Snowfed Waters is a remarkable journey of its protagonist Sonia that takes the reader through verdant Nepal, its complex social system and its striking contrast to the West.

The protagonist Sonia Swayne is facing the worst of times. She has lost her job; her husband has abandoned her and a fierce cat has left a nasty scratch on forehead. With nothing in her hand and nowhere to go, she heads to a small town, Rajapur, in Nepal, hoping that helping others will help change her life too, for the better.

And it does look like that that was the plan universe had chalked out for her. Not only she proves to a significant help to the people in need there but in the process also emerges strong in her own battle of self validation that catapults her to a celebrity status both in her own country (Britain) and the country she has adopted.

The novel not only shows Sonia’s valiant journey alone but of many more who endear themselves to the reader as s/he turns pages. Fighter Guliya, compassionate Moti; articulate Rekraj Dikshit; resourceful Bom Bahadur Gurung; hippie Paul; loser Rosemary (the Herb), each of these characters is beautifully fleshed out, transporting one to the fictional Nepalese village, witnessing their life first-hand.

A reader cannot miss out on the contrast — of interpretation of the same scenario by a native and foreigner. The best one that depicts this difference is Sonia’s perspective, shaped by her time in Cambridge and her late grandfather’s sayings, which she tries to apply in a different milieu. Midway both, she and reader, realise the folly and futility of it leading to peals of laughter when the situation demands utmost concern. 

What’s even more beautiful is how the Himalayan country, called ‘ the roof of the world’, registers its own presence as a living entity. While living in India, one wouldn’t expect to find life in the neighbouring Nepal different from ours but if you are an urbanite, it can hold some nasty surprises. Mindless rituals invite scorn not only from westerners but also educated in this part of the world. The writer puts that in perspective without validating it. What else would a woman (Guliya in this case) do than fast in front of the idol having lost her entire family in floods with no source of communication, news or even medical facilities? Probably when nothing is in your hand, all you can do is to remain positive and pin your hopes on the Almighty to help you through difficult times.

That’s, however, just one aspect of this beautifully narrated tale, interspersed with want and waste; horror and humour. Even the grimmest of situations may wrest a smile from the reader, and that is the beauty of Jane Wilson-Howarth’s craft.

Interestingly, Snowfed Waters is a fictional sequel to an acclaimed memoir A Glimpse of Eternal Snow (ever heard something like that?) but the novel stands its ground on its own. A tale of courage and compassion; unlearning the past and embracing the future is magnificently woven that keeps you hooked throughout!

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