Free Press Journal

The White Umbrella: Carrying Pavlova from Peshawar to London- Review


– The White Umbrella

  – Author: Brian Sewell

Publisher: speaking TIGER

Pages: 175 ; Price: Rs. 399

When a British Art critic and animal lover decides to write an allegory as swan song the result is ” The white Umbrella”. This is a surreal tale of a donkey who by stroke of luck gets attention of a British historian and this sets a life time adventure for both.

This is a tale of Peshawar donkey who is living life like any other Pakistani (or for that matter any other Asian donkey) until Mr B decides to take her to London. Reading this tale of donkey named Pavlova by Mr. B is kind of adventure in modern day.

Laced with legendary British humour and observations, this is an enjoyable book on a rainy weekend.

It is tempting to compare this adventure with ‘Life of Pi’ by Yan Martel. But except genres, there is nothing similar in both stories. In this adventure Mr B taking Pavlova from Peshawar to London via Persia, Turkey, Mecodonia, Germany. While travelling through these territories writer gives glimpses of day to day life which is fascinating from the Western point of view. In the second half when Hector, a bibliopol enters as a saviour to his fellow British man and his animal, the tone and pace of writing changes for good. But their camaraderie lasts for few days.

In the last chapter, writer tries to give a logical end to fiction but entire efforts fall flat. Instead of giving too much of details of their London life it would have been better that the tale ends with their entry in London.

This is an interesting attempt to educate Urban reader to domestic animal life. But as it is correctly portrayed in the novel, animals are part of daily life in Asian rural areas. So those who are not familiar with this way of life for them this is an interesting entry point to a different world, where empathy matters.

For a young reader, through out the book, there are nice illustrations by Sally Ann Lasson which may prove helpful for young digital native readers to connect with the narrative.

This is an interesting fiction by urban Art critic who is nostalgic about long lost domestic animal life which can be enjoyed by young and mature animal lover equally.

It could have been better tale if it was not wrapped off hurriedly. Brian Sewell could have written few more chapter about hilarious London life but that is not the case. So enjoy the fairly written fairy tale till it lasts.