Title: Eve Out of Her Ruins
Author: Ananda Devi
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Pages: 174; Price: Rs 299
This was not an easy book to read. It made me uncomfortable because it questioned my picture-perfect idea of Mauritius. Suddenly the clean, pristine waters and the happy, glowing vibes gave way to a seething underbelly of turbulence and torture. The kind of unrest that is aching to erupt and destroy what surrounds it. But hard as it was, the book is an eye-opener — a metaphor of sorts — one that serves as a reminder that where there is light, there is darkness. And it’s this duality that leaves a mark through Anandi’s poignant writing.
Each chapter is narrated by a character in the story — a style that is intriguing and tricky to use. To tweak each voice just enough to be unique, while maintaining the author’s overarching narrative intact. The multiple voices flow with ease but with a certain heaviness veiled in the darkness that is as eerie as the tale itself. Eve Out of Her Ruins makes for powerful writing, and at the end of each chapter, you will want to put the book down, just for a minute to reflect on the image that has just been painted for you. It makes you consider, ‘Can this really be the reality of life for some people in the world.’ Through our sheltered and privileged lives, it seems hard to fathom, but somewhere deep inside, we know it is true. The book is a reflection of the unfortunate ugliness that exists in the world, and while it won’t make for great vacation reading, it will resonate with readers who do not shy from ‘realness’ of storytelling.
It will hit you hard, especially because the protagonists are all children. The weight they carry on their shoulders and the harshness of their circumstances as the story unfolds is heartbreaking. Each one of them is living in duality — how they appear to the world is a farce, because they are forced to hide who they really want to be. Saad, a teenager in love writes poetry for his muse but subdues this nature to keep up his tough gang member persona. Clélio is the hothead of the town, a manifestation of his broken being, betrayed and abandoned by his brother. His vulnerability only comes to light through his inexplicable connect to music. Eve allows society to defile her body to get ‘things’ in an attempt to survive poverty. But her soul remains under lock and key and untouched by the filth. Savita, a reclusive girl and the least fleshed out character in the story, unchains Eve’s pure childlike heart, allowing love to pour forth.
Being a translation from French means that some of the prose will always be lost of us who read in English, but it doesn’t stop this extraordinary book from drawing you in from the very start. This book is written for slow readers, for those who like to chew on words and devour each emotion and word, which was diligently carved into just the right place. Through the characters, Anandi speaks to the hidden parts of us all — the shadows that linger within, but may not be conquer our lives as they are today. Put in these circumstances of Eve, Saad, Clélio and Savita, we too might find it easier to accept the darkness than to look for the light. Till the very end, Savita remains evasive — we see glimpses of her, but picture feels incomplete somehow. It’s hard to really pinpoint who she is and who she wants to be. This is the only drawback in this otherwise bold and blatant portrayal of despair in this gut-wrenching story.