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Book Review: Spinner of the Twisted Tale by Rajesh M. Iyer

Stories carry far-fetching influence on humans. Whether we are listening to them intently or they fall upon us out of somewhere, erratic specks of visualization and inquisitiveness begin itching in the cask of our subconscious. Hence it is rightly said that stories are inevitable to human race – you cannot ignore them – stories can open or shrink your world depending upon its narration.


Rajesh Iyer introduces us to the life of a prolific storyteller, Nalini, whose long life is filled with storytelling sessions for a cast of audiences. Her stories are daring intrigue, witty, ironical; and at times filled with dark moments. After Nalini was born, unlike other babies in her family, her first word was Kadhai – in Tamil it meant story. However, some of her relatives counteracted it with Kazhutai, which meant donkey in Tamil. As she grows up, she begins narrating stories of amusing irony and great significance. Since the novel has its roots to pre-independence days, you can say that time storytelling was a household activity, and people took it seriously. But it doesn’t mean that the route of a storyteller was straight without societal restrictions and vapid antagonism.

After couple of chapters it comes out in the open light that Nalini holds a divinely grace for storytelling. She is brimming with stories, stories accost her out of the cosmos energy, she had has no control over them. She, out of choice, on many occasions felt as she is just another mediator between the cosmos system and the fate of people. She is compelled by the energy of the universe to narrate stories for people around or the forces around her.

The interesting thing is that not all her stories take place alfresco with listeners around…she narrates stories to herself in the chilling darkness of her room, there is a spider in the room, two crows sit on a tree outside her room, some strange scratching runs up and down the wall of her room. As she advances with her story telling sessions indoor and outdoor, she gradually realizes that her listeners aren’t only human beings but some other dark forces too. This revelation is bizarre but it adds an angle of horror to the overall content of the book. To some point it seems as Nalini has no antagonism to fight…she sounds silent and unfazed as nearly all people conform to the brilliance of her storytelling. But equations seem changing with time, first is when her story heals her ailing cousin Vaibhavi. People conjectured that Nalini’s stories are therapeutic. On the other hand, there this stubborn girl Vaidehi, who thinks otherwise. She is of the opinion that Nalini’s stories are ostentatious and she has gained unnecessary patronage. Things go worst from bad when Nalini narrates a story with foreboding on the occasion of Vaidehi’s marriage. The story subtly alluded that Vaidehi is going to see a turbulent marriage-life ahead. And unluckily the foreboding comes true. Well, after that the two women never come on good terms. Vaidehi keeps an ill grudge against her, on the other hand Nalini thinks that she has nothing for her…the story came as it was demanded by the cosmos energy. But still she wishes best for Vaidehi.

A close look reveals that ever since Vaidehi acted as an obstacle to her storytelling. Well, what could be the harrowing consequences of that, is something terrifically revealed at the end of the book?

Getting into other elements of the book, the author has used flashback technique to weave the story artistically. You can also conclude that the story is a coming-of-an-age because here you see the entire timeline of the protagonist Nalini i.e. her birth, family, marriage, children, grandchildren and many important events like the Italian traveller and so on.

One of the prominent takeaways of the book is other concurrent stories that have been narrated in between beautifully. For an instance, Nalini narrates a story to that Italian traveler who comes to India to have his incomplete story completed. She doles out stories for freedom fighters, stories for her children, her husband who all life remained silent and conversed via monosyllable.

Between the gloom and glory, Nalini during her last years i.e. when she is ninety years old takes up the challenge to narrate the final story called as Swan Song. This is going to be a different story…it may reveal something dark about her storytelling sessions and her association with it or it could be about redemption. And for this story, people familiar and unfamiliar from across the world are coming to her native village to have her last story heard. Her old filial listeners are thrilled to see her back in action and the new ones (those meeting her first time) are filled with heady excitement to witness something on which their lineage has been built. Spinner of the Twisted Tale is terrifically silent but startlingly power packed. The story has the élan to transport its readers to various time zones where they will confront everything but boredom.

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