#bookreview Night Theatre by Vikram Paralkar published by Serpent’s Tail


As dusk approaches, a former surgeon goes about closing up his dilapidated clinic in rural India. His day, like all his days, has been long and hard. His medical supplies arrive late if at all, the electrics in the clinic threaten to burn out at any minute, and his overseer, a corrupt government official, blackmails and extorts him. It is thankless work, but the surgeon has long given up any hope of reward in this life.

That night, as the surgeon completes his paperwork, he is visited by a family – a teacher, his heavily pregnant wife and their young son. Victims of a senseless attack, they reveal to the surgeon wounds that they could not possibly have survived. 

And so the surgeon finds himself faced with a preposterous task: to mend the wounds of the dead family before sunrise so that they may return to life. But this is not the only challenge laid before the surgeon, and as the night unfolds he realises his future is tied more closely to that of the dead family than he could have imagined.

My reading experience:

Doctor Saheb is both a simple character and a protagonist with a complex past when the dead walk into his clinic. This is not just another tale of magical realism. Saheb is also a dead man in the metaphorical sense, with gaping wounds of his own that need healing before he, like the dead, can be brought back to life.

This book is an unexpected gift in every way. The hard copy book design is beautiful; a matt black background with blue, green and yellow plant designs on the jacket. The book itself is black with the almost signature Serpent’s Tail bluegreen foil lettering. The prose include medical descriptions that are clinical yet magical with colour and texture. The author brings the heat, the smells, the sweat and the palour of both the living and the dead to life.

The story path is outlined as being straightforward but do not be fooled. There are things to consider about characters along the way; human qualities and celestial ones. I found this book to be thoroughly compelling and highly recommend it.


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