Daniel’s Diary- A Romance in Past and Present

 

Daniel’s Diary by Rajeshwari Chauhan

This book comes as a part of the blog tour by The Book Club. The first thing that attracted me to this book was the stunning book cover and the promise of an historical story set in Mughal era. After reading Susan Kearsley’s Firebird, I was intrigued to read a story which draws parallel with the past, and the novel does show the past in its complete glory.

The Synopsis

 When Mrinalini, an art restoration expert, ventures into the ruins of Rang-Mahal and the Palace of Sumangarh, an accidental discovery of a skeleton and a manuscript detailing the exploits of Daniel, a Portuguese artist, opens a window to the forgotten era of grace and grandeur. The blossoming of love between a Moghul Emperor and a Rajput princess, is seen through the eyes of a foreign traveller, who himself falls in love with Jodhabai.

 The plot revolves around Daniel’s quest for beauty and passion, the ecstasy and agony of love. He marries the famous courtesan Mahamaya only to lose her. It also draws a modern day parallel in the life of Mrinalini, a woman who seeks refuge in artistic pursuits and architectural ruins when relationships in life confuse her.

 Will she and Surajsinh be able to decode the clues left behind by Daniel? Will the curse of centuries-old unfulfilled love break into a happy ending for Mrinalini?

 

The book shows two stories—one happening in modern world, while the other already happened in the past. Mrinalini, an art restoration expert, goes to Sumangarh for her work, and fells for the charm of the ruins and history of the place. During one of her exploratory walks in the ruins, she discovers a skeleton and Daniel’s diary, the account of a Portugese artist who lived during the reign of Akbar. The story then moves through Mrinalini’s search for relationship, and Daniel’s search for passion penned in his diary.

What I Liked

1)   Mughal Era’s story– Let me confess you that I love that era. If you ever gave me a time machine, I’d like to go and see how those people lived. I think I have a love-hate relation with Jodha-Akbar’s story. I never could understand how an immortal love could thrive between them when he had so many wives.  But then, that’s what reels me in. I have devoured literature about them to understand this concept, and this book was no different. I’m not very sure about the history portrayed is correct or not; I read it like another story, like any other fiction.

2)  Diary entries– My second fascination in literature is diary entries and letters. This book was no exception to it. I absolutely loved Mahamaya and Chhimiya in it. Pity they appeared in the last and few pages! My favorite scene was the moth scene in which the romance rises to a crescendo.

What Irked me

1)  Head-hopping telling style of the story– I can see why this style was necessary to condense the story in 359 pages, but I didn’t enjoy the way Mrinalini’s present day story was told. I felt distanced as the sentences jumped from one character to another, without showing any dialogue. This style was once quite famous, but it robs all the joy of even a strong story for me.

2)  Diary Entries– I know I mentioned that I liked them above, but I can like and unlike the same thing, right? My love for diary entries means that my expectations with them are quite high. I loved the way author showed slow wooing and anguish of Jodha-Akbar in these entries, but missed seeing more of Daniel. Although it was a diary of Daniel, much of its beginning entries revolved only around the Mughal Emperor’s story.  I’d have loved them more if they’d been like the later entries which I read twice or thrice.

3)  Incredible Present story incidents– There were a few incredible story scenes with Mrinalini which actually made me laugh. I could see the reason why they were introduced, but they were so filmy that I couldn’t help myself but laugh.

Overall Opinion

I wonder if it was me, or the book really. I liked the story that was in the book, but not the present which was telling the book. As I said above, I felt distanced from the present story characters like Mrinalini and Surajsinh. It left me with an odd dissatisfaction that something more should have been shown in the story.

But, my views aside, Ketan Mehta, a veteran filmmaker, has actually appreciated the novel. It does show the glimpses of that bygone era. Probably it’s my taste for more active novels, or maybe my high expectations, which left me thirsting for something more.  Who knows maybe we’d see its narrative turned into a movie

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Meet the author
 
 
The Author’s Thoughts
A freelance writer, artist, and teacher, Rajeshwari Chauhan has contributed as a script and content writer for many creative and promotional literature, short movies, and plays. A passionate artist, she loves to create realistic paintings on canvas as well as doing wall paintings. For her, painting and creative writing are complementary to each other. Being from the Royal family of Chhota-Udepur, she has always had a fascination for history and conservation of heritage.
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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jaibalarao
    Mar 25, 2014 @ 19:53:28

    Wow this is an amazing review….just wow….and I agree with you on the part of liking and disliking thedairy entries at the same time 🙂

    Reply

  2. Aparajita
    Mar 25, 2014 @ 21:03:25

    Hey, I like your good and honest review. However, I felt like asking certain questions after reading the review. Do you think a good novel needs lots of dialogues and not a narration? If this is so, then why a novel is being considered under the ‘ narrative mode ‘ and what is the basic difference between a ‘novel’ and a ‘ drama ‘ ? I think you have not read Rabindrath Tagore’s novels or Qurratulain Hyder’s ” Aag Ka Dariya ‘. that is why you made that comment. Another thing, I would like to say is that I think , you thirst for dialogues is actually the one which distanced you and the present day story of Mrinalini and Surajsinh. If you notice carefully, you will see that a lot of gestures have been made through the use of paintings, the way of handling the paintings.Words, rather, English words are not the only one ‘ sign system’ that has been used by the author.The author has used various forms of art, specially paintings as a ‘sign system’ and following Saussure’s concept of semiotics, I think we would be doing injustice to these sign systems , but not giving them, their due respect. If you consider all this as a whole, trust me , you will laugh and cry with Mrinalini and feel at one with her. Out of curiosity, I have another question. You said , ” There were a few incredible story scenes with Mrinalini which actually made me laugh.” I would like to know why ? I mean why do you think that incidents which are ‘ too filmy ‘ can make you laugh? What is so ‘ comic ‘ about it ? I think we all know that the book is a historical romance and such scenes are of course acceptable. I still can’t understand that even if a scene is ‘ filmy ‘, why would it make you laugh ? I would also like to know what do you consider as ‘ filmy ‘. I am really curious to know your opinions. Thanks 🙂

    Reply

    • parichitasingh
      Mar 25, 2014 @ 22:08:05

      Hey, Aparajita. Thanks for stopping by and your curiosity. 🙂

      1) You are right about what the author said via paintings; I understood that to some extent but that is a small fraction of the novel, not the whole novel in itself. Or maybe I’m not talented enough to appreciate that. I’m only a reader who have the inkling of art; I am not an artist myself.

      2) Yes, I personally don’t enjoy the narrative style of story-telling. There has to be a healthy mix of narration versus the showing of the things to keep me invested in the book. As for Daniel’s Diary, it started very well in the beginning, when only Mrinalini was there. But then as more and more characters came, the style of writing started getting diluted purely towards narration. Even diary entries, which were supposed to be the personal diary writing, turned into narrations as the characters increased. As I said above, I understand the need of adopting this style, it just didn’t engage me. I’ve read Rabindranath’s Gora and The Post Office(a play). It’s not as much of reading experience as yours, but they didn’t feel too narrative to me.

      3) The filmy points- There’s a scene in the story wherein Mrinalini, who was invited for art revival turned into a cook, an actress, a host. I couldn’t help but laugh at the concept that she was trusted to manage the palace and she went beyond her call of duty and did all those things (almost) singlehandedly and perfectly. That was one filmy scene for me. Then there was the end when Surajsinh and Mrinalini played footsie. I know these all were meant to take the plot further, but these scenes felt contrived in the story rather than a natural progression. That’s why I called them filmy. They made me laugh because I could see the intentions with which they were kept there. It felt to me that author was acting as a matchmaker there.

      I know the book has a strong storyline, but I do feel it could have been better if more things were implemented. But everybody takes different things from the book. You probably took more joy out of the artistic aspect and narrative style, while I myself felt a bit limited to imagine beyond what author was telling me. I’m the sort of person who likes to lose herself in the characters while reading a story. I like to cease my own existence and enter character’s life and that’s what I meant by not connecting with Mrinalini. I, throughout the book, wasn’t able to align myself with her thoughts.

      I appreciate your stopping by with your thoughts. It always fascinates me how the book changes its shape from one reader to another. It’s like we bring our experiences into reading. This has been a very interesting comment, and I loved writing this reply.

      Reply

  3. sridevidatta
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 06:33:01

    A lovely review Parichita. Detailed and to the point 🙂

    Reply

  4. sundarivenkat
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 14:42:49

    I love your review Parichita! and I agree with every point that you have made 🙂

    Reply

  5. Carolyn Brown
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 17:00:12

    Nice review. I’m dropping in to welcome you to the A-Z Challenge which of course is getting very close.

    CarolynBrown-Books

    Reply

  6. soniaraowrites
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 19:43:37

    A wonderful review with good insights, Parichita.

    Reply

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