Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Summer of Katya

I have never tried my hand at reviews. My opinions of books usually are "Wow! You really should read it!", "Hmmm it was okay, if you have some time on your hands, read it", and the like. But this fascinating book, and the fact that I blog nowadays, and this neat review, drove me to write this.

The Summer of Katya is a powerful tale, set in the Basque region in France, just before the First World War. The story is told by Jean-Marc Montjean, a young doctor, who is enchanted by Katya, a beautiful and elusive young woman.

Jean-Marc, just out of medical school, works as an assistant to a doctor who specialises in pandering to the hypochondriac ailments of middle-aged women. With a lot of time on his hands, and being of a romantic temperament, the young doctor, intoxicated by the beautiful spring, spends most of his time wandering around the picturesque Basque village and penning random thoughts in his book.

On one such idyllic day, he meets Katya, and his world changes entirely. Katya is unlike any other girl of that time. She roams about on a bicycle, escortless and hatless. She loves nature and the outdoors, and has a zest for life that Jean-Marc cannot believe could ever exist. She is charming, witty and intelligent. Jean-Marc falls in love with her almost immediately.

He goes to her home, which is a derelict old building, situated away from the main village, to treat her twin brother Paul's broken arm. The twins, and their father, Monsieur Treville, an old and forgetful, but brilliant scientist, are reclusives, and hardly interact with anybody in the village. Jean-Marc finds the family, and of course, Katya, very interesting and frequents their home, often staying on for supper.

But the Trevilles are shrouded in mystery. the entire village speculates about them and many rumours are whispered about their past. Even as Jean-Marc tries to woo Katya, indulges in sharp and sometimes caustic banters with Paul, and listens patiently to Monsieur Trevilles' long-winded scientific monologues, he senses that there is something wrong in the family. Some sadness, some fear, something is lurking all around. In the enthusiasm of youth and his love for Katya, he tries to dig in, find out their secrets to help them, but is prevented from doing so by an adamant Paul. What the secrets are, and how Jean-Marc finds out about them makes the rest of the engrossing story.

The characterization is brilliant. Jean-Marc is a young, idealistic, over-confident, yet self-conscious youth who is a bit like each one of us. His is a very endearing personality. Paul is enigmatic, prone to mood changes, and very secretive, keeps you guessing as to his intentions, and Jean-Marc is never sure if Paul likes him or not. He himself is slightly wary of Paul. The old scientist, with his lapses in memory, comes across as a very likeable, albeit crazy man. Katya herself, wild, charming, witty, full of life, and elusive - drives Jean-Marc crazy.

With very strong characters, and a wonderful use of words, the story flies to a thundering and electrifying climax.

Rodney Whitaker, writing with the nom-de-plume Trevanian, is brilliant. I had not read any stories of his before, but this one made me sit up and want to read the others.

Go for it.


Shriedhar said...

Shruti,i dunno how the buk was written..
But,i liked the way u conveyed it wid a lucid style..
keep posting..:)

Chetan said...

Great review. Loved Manasi's too. Gone with the wind brought back a lot of memories!

After reading the first two paras about a doctor and the very Russian sounding name Katya, I was immediately reminded of Pasternak's classic Doctor Zhivago, one of the few books whose movie version turned out to be better. Of course reading your excellent review further shattered that illusion. This one seems to be in an entirely different league plotwise and genre wise. I checked it on Amazon and has 5 star reviews across the board. (why don't you consider linking it there, would avoid the lazy readers like me the hassle of searching) Definitely has earned its place on on my must read list. Especially now that you have built up the suspence so much about the family secret. Looking forward to many such reviews in future.

Manasi said...

Hey thanks for that 'neat review' remark. I am really flattered :-).

Your review is really nice. You divulge the necessary and build up that suspense which will make anyone want to read it, no matter what. And i am surely going to lay my hands on it.

Keep writing more such reviews and suggesting wonderful books.

Shruthi said...

@Shreedhar: Hey, thanks :)

@Chetan: Thanks Chetan! Doctor Zhivago --- never watched the movie, unfortunately, but have grown up with its enchanting soundtrack - esp "Lara's theme" - in fact at one time, I had composed it on my cellphone and had it as my default ringtone :)
Yup, got your point, will provide a link to Amazon henceforth (actually i was too lazy to dig it out :))
Thank you, I am sure your kind words will inspire more reviews!

@Manasi: Thank you, Manasi! Will surely come up with more reviews!

Ajay said...

hey me first time here.... was just going through some interesting blogs then found urs... still need some time to read some of ur posts.... i am a Novel lover.... but din know about this book.....

Anil The Great said...

The book doesnt look very original , but your review was definately "thumbs-up".

Good work and start your review section from now onwards, you have a good potential inside you.

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Your review was great! Absolutely brought this book on my wishlist. Great review... keep bringing us more of these.

Shruthi said...

@Ajay: I did not know about the book too! Wonder how many such books are there, which we haven't read :(

@Anil: If the book does not sound original, then my review is probably not good enough :) Anyway, thanks!

@Sudipta: Thanks! :)

Anil The Great said...

Shruti :

The originality of the book has nothing to do with the review style.

The same product is being advertised in 10 different ways , yet we like one ad over others. Its the same way with reviews. A review is a world in itself, it doesnt matter whether it was review of an original book or a second rung book.


Shruthi said...

That's a lovely compliment.. thanks a lot, Anil!

Supremus said...

Awesome review!

And you should be writing more book reviews now shruthi - this is kind of review which doesnt tell a whole lot, but excites you enough to pickup the book from the closest bookstore!

Good one here - and I am surely going to read it!


Shruthi said...

Thank you, Suyog! Will do!

Thena said...

My words exactly! Great Review. Nice to read someone who agrees.

Katya is right up there, in my mind, with Heathcliff.

Bon app├ętit!

Anonymous said...

I read this book long time ago and I read 3 of other books of Travenian. I never disappointed. The Summer of Katya is a brilliant book. Especially the end is amazing. I can't tell you more details but you will feel the real shock. I wish he was alive and writing the new books which will be amazing too. Just go for it..

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