One Summer in Poleru by Nanda Rajanala is an enchanting novel that blends crime & suspense and murder mystery into one. Staged against a fictional village named Poleru in South India, where the vernacular language is Telugu, the novel takes a stance on evil vs. good deeds. At large in the world, people are so greedy and corrupt that their personal motives take precedence over destitute people’s privileges and basic rights. But some fights for rights are epic, and this novel is about one such good story.
The novel puts forth the fight of some school children against the powerful corrupt political figures and government officials. On the name of development, authorities have decided to demolish a very old government school where students from poor and suppressed families study. This doesn’t go well with Renu, the protagonist. She is a seventh grade student. At the beginning of one summer vacation, this sad news perturbs her. The school holds historical value, as it was build since the Chola dynasty. It was rather a Gurukul then.
Renu is chirpy, brave, and inherently inquisitive. Right at the beginning, she saves an old man from a tiger, but it all happened accidently. Renu discusses the plight of saving her school with a few elders and family members…but all ignores her.
The story takes time to build its tempo, however since the beginning it’s moving in a measured pace. All facets of Renu are first portrayed with optimum light. To her age, she was a bit matured, yet full of purpose and surreal credibility. The novel has many characters, and all are defined elegantly in the wake of their roles. No one looks puny, despite the prime focus being on Renu.
The main story is about a protest to save the village school, to solve a murder mystery, and exposing a clandestine land deal. Renu gathers some of her friends such as Lakshmi, Sweta, and Mary to protest against the demolition of school.
Initially, it looked childish. In fact, it was. However, with time they learnt tactics, how to invite people, and make visuals, and leveraging the power of social media. It worked. But the novel turns into a murder mystery when Giri, an influential political figure, found dead. He was the same person who was hell bent on demolishing the school.
Post the murder, inspector Prasad takes control over the story. He acts like a movie detective. Meanwhile Renu’s protest program gains momentum and she becomes famous.
The story remains in Poleru, revolves around goons, corrupt bureaucrats, and secretive work of a missionary church that can uproot the education of poor children, and much more. The great USP of the book is that it doesn’t sound heavy, as you chug ahead with the story, the more it becomes unputdownble.
Nanda writes with a passion of an astute storyteller. It’s evident from his skills that the book is traditionally published. From characters, subplots, and suspense building – the novel sounds perfect with its themes and overall storytelling.
Buy your copy from Amazon.