Author: Niranjan Navalgund
Illustrator: Omkar Math
Price: Rs 150
Reviewed by Eisha Sarkar
A book about conversations between books is here! Chess professional Niranjan Navalgund's The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance makes books 'human' giving them personas, expressions, feelings and depth. From tomes that spout wisdom to two book-souls who fall in love, to a protector who tries hard to de-code threat messages, this secret Book-World is a bibliophile's fantasy. The story shifts between the human and book worlds, where humans keep looking for books in the library and the books discuss their readers. The humans don't know that the books can talk. The books guard their secrets. Then one day, a book goes missing. What happens next is a series of events where humans and book-souls search for the lost book.
While the plot seems simple, the author has worked a lot on the characters, bringing life to the books on a dusty library shelf. In order to create a separate universe for the books, Navalgund has cleverly created new words such as 'bera' (a fusion of book and era) and 'bogya' (a fusion of book and yagya meaning a ritual of sacrifice) that are part of the books' lexicon. The author has done well to use a bit of Kannada to create words and names. What makes The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance really interesting are the beautiful conversations between the books about their readers. For example:
“I once met a girl who never put me down. She kept reading me. It was a thrilling experience to lie on her lap all the time. She kissed me and said that the words in me had a soothing effect on her. She embellished me with doodles. What about you?”
“Aha, I never really liked tattoos and doodles. They are like scars that don't go away easily.”
If you love your books, you would wish they talked like this!
While The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance is a book-lover's delight, it is heavy on referencing and might distract a casual reader. It's only 96 pages and you may finish the book at one go but it'll force you to slower your pace and re-read parts of it, to understand how a code is cracked or to look up a reference to a book or a word. Also, the book starts with human characters but ends with only the book-characters. To some readers, it may not give a sense of closure. Whether it does or not, you'll have to read the book to find out.
Thoughtful and incisive, The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance is Niranjan Navalgund's tribute to books and libraries. It's a labour of love, written with great care and a lot of research. Take your time to read this one.