While the idea of a mountain village so remote that it doesn’t even appear on maps is appealing to many of us keen to escape from the age of Google Map invasion, Rabindra, having lived there all his life, is not so sure. He longs to escape, and as we learn more about his family and fellow villagers, you begin to see his point of view.
The primary source of his suffering is the fact that he is the second son and as such must forever live in the shadow of his doctor brother and face the daily scorn and derision of his father and sisters. He decides, with his one friend, the low-caste Pol, that he needs to leave and start a new life elsewhere, but heading off to the next village or city doesn’t suffice – they decide to call upon the gods to bring them brides from England who will be their ticket to a new world and life.
The story is skilfully told by Robin Mukherjee, who has squeezed every possible comedic drop from this clash of cultures tale – this is definitely one of the funniest books I have read. There is a sense of overfamiliarity with many of the characters; the over-strict, pompous father, the dutiful but quietly rebelling son, the incompetent police officer, the selling-obsessed villagers. However, the author uses these character traits adeptly to create such an enjoyable scenario that you are happy to put realism to one side as there is so much to savour.
Despite there being a large number of characters they all have their own identity and distinct place in the story; the dialogue is excellent – funny and interesting; the storyline is not original but has sufficient surprises to keep you wondering; and the philosophical touches ensure that there is depth to both the story and the protagonists.
Hillstation is a well-written book that slowly charms its way into your heart and leaves you with a smile on your face!