Sometimes life presents an opportunity to leave the past behind and start afresh.
Where All The Lights Are Stripped Away starts off with an arrival of letter from his dying father asking him to go home. In his childhood home, Anil finds out his Acha (father in Malayalam) has ambitious political plans for him as he uncovers new facets of his father. He discovers his mother’s secret collection of paintings and re-examines the lessons he learnt from her in his childhood.
Absorbing from the first sentence, it is easy to get immersed by the interesting characters and situations that Anil encounters as a young man. Set against a backdrop of political conflict in modern Malaysia, the author brings to light universal issues of relationships, inheritance, growing up in a multi-cultural, multi-layered country through engaging narratives.
For his first attempt at a novel, London-based Nair has done an admirable job. Written in a breezy, charming manner When The Lights Are Stripped Away is a tale that has the ability to get under your skin. It doesn’t take long to understand what drove Anil away from all that was dear to him. Through his eyes, we get to see how his Acha’s political influence and imminent death, his departed mother’s hidden past, the political reality of his country begins to take over his mind and heart.
A personal favourite are the descriptions of Kuala Lumpur that Anil encounters when he first moves to the city and how he meets his culturally-diverse friends. While the author manages to entice the reader with new plot lines and conflicts successfully, the dialogues between the protagonist and local politicians feels forced and in that way, a tad unrealistic.
However, there is a whole lot of satisfaction reading about this Malayalee family’s secrets and ill-fated events. After all, secrets especially those that are deep, buried and life-changing are a pleasure to unravel.
Overall, Nair’s novel gives a breath of fresh air to Malaysian literature and has the ability to put Malaysia on the world literary map. Where All The Lights Are Stripped Away is a sensuous and rewarding read.
Title: When All The Lights Are Stripped Away
Author: Sunil Nair
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Editions
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