Book Reviews,  Harper Collins, India

#Review: The Witch in the Peepul Tree by Arefa Tehsin

The Witch in the Peepul Tree
Author: Arefa Tehsin
Publisher: Harper Collins, India
Rating: 4/5

“The Witch in the Peepul Tree” by Arefa Tehsin offers readers a captivating journey into the past, set in the year 1950 on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti. Through this historical fiction, Tehsin paints a vivid and intricate picture of life in Bohrawadi, Udaipur, a multi-storeyed house that harbours not only a respected businessman, Dada Bhai, but also his family—his wife Mena Bai, his mother Sugra Bai, and their children.

The narrative unfolds over the course of a single day, providing a unique perspective on the lives and struggles of the characters. Dada Bhai is a notable figure, esteemed by both the aristocracy and the commoners, and he stands for principles of equality. His wife, Mena Bai, champions women’s education, creating a dynamic couple that embodies progressive ideals. Yet, behind their façade of respect and admiration, financial troubles and lurking adversaries threaten to undermine their stability.

The author’s writing style is enchanting, offering readers both the pleasure of storytelling and insightful exploration of complex themes. Each character is meticulously crafted, endowed with distinct voices, quirks, and mannerisms, allowing readers to immerse themselves fully in the narrative. The cast of characters, while abundant, does not impede the flow of the story, a testament to Tehsin’s skilled storytelling.

A notable aspect of Tehsin’s writing is her use of vernacular language. While this might prove challenging for readers unfamiliar with the language, it significantly enhances the authenticity of the setting and characters. This linguistic authenticity adds depth to the story, providing a genuine connection to the characters and their experiences.

The setting of the story is incredibly authentic, capturing not only the physical landscape of Udaipur but also the socio-political climate of the time. The author adeptly portrays caste disparities, changing ideologies, and the impact of British rule and independence on the privileged and the marginalised. The historical context is expertly interwoven with the narrative, creating a rich tapestry that immerses readers in a bygone era.

The title, “The Witch in the Peepul Tree,” might mislead readers into expecting a supernatural element at the story’s core. However, the reference to the witch is symbolic, underlining the deeper themes explored in the book.

While the mystery surrounding Sanaz’s death and the presence of the jeevti dakkan are pivotal to the story, they occasionally get overshadowed by the plethora of characters and layers within the narrative. The actual investigation into the death takes a backseat until later in the story, which might slightly dampen the impact of these elements.

Despite this, Tehsin’s ability to transport readers to a world where things are not as simple as they seem is credible.

In conclusion, “The Witch in the Peepul Tree” stands as a testament to Arefa Tehsin’s storytelling prowess and her dedication to creating narratives that resonate with readers. With its authentic portrayal of an era, complex characters, and skilful use of language, this novel captures the essence of historical fiction. Whether you are a fan of the genre or simply seeking a captivating read that transports you to a different time, “The Witch in the Peepul Tree” is well worth your consideration.

Best wishes to the author!

Buy this book from here: Amazon

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