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Book Review: Gracie by Ruskin Bond

Gracie is a lengthy story covered in the book Secrets by Ruskin Bond. Gracie is a story of a woman in the heat of World War Two. She was a pretty lady of seventeen or eighteen with English, Portuguese, Burmese and Indian descent. In the winter of 1945, the streets and roads of Dehradun became all of sudden full with soldiers, mainly allied troops. Dehradun was not a center of military activities, but it was made into a recreational center for the allied troops engaged in fighting the war at different frontiers. American soldiers were rich, thus they would distribute toffees to the children in the street. While British soldiers always short on ration weren’t that avuncular.

Because of the rush of the soldiers, there was sudden rise in the clubs, restaurants, bars and cinema halls. The sleepy town of Dehra became a vivid commercial hub. One nice soldier named Corporal Allen gifted three crime thriller books of Agatha Christie to young Ruskin, aged ten.

On the other hand, Gracie would sing in clubs and make money. She had beautiful voice, and her elder sister was a school teacher. Both the sisters were making reasonable money. Corporal Allen started dating Gracie. Though Ruskin was only ten but he had crush on Gracie. Even she cared for him, took him for walk, kissed him, and often changed dress in his presence. Probably, she considered him too young for romantic relationship.

When Ruskin’s three-month long winter vacation ended, he went back to Shimla in a boarding school. He knew that things would change by the time he would return. When he was back after nine months, things were just opposite Dehra was once again a sleepy town. He enquired about Gracie. She got married to that baby-faced Corporal Allen and gone to England.

When the country became independent English and Anglo-Indians packed their bags and went abroad. So his mother packed Ruskin for England. There he was working as a clerk while writing his first novel. Life in London was lonely and boring. He would go out for walks and movies. He was attracted to prostitutes standing in the streets ready to hook up customers from the road. After a long walk and staring, he finally decided to go in with one. The whore was elder to him but quite attractive. The moment she undressed herself, the scar around her waistline sent shock waves to Ruskin. Even Gracie had the same scar – he remembered. He called her name aloud and she removed her heavy make-up. Behind the makeover it was Gracie whom he knew since Dehra days. She narrated her tragic tale of being betrayed by that Corporal and how she couldn’t get into a regular kind of work. Ruskin didn’t make love to her and came back as a virgin lad. He hoped that Gracie would save enough money to start a seaside restaurant there.

The story is staged against the grim realities of the war. How war affected the lives of simple people is very much evident from this story. This is a great story by Ruskin Bond undoubtedly.


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