Book Review: Rhododendrons in the Mist by Ruskin Bond


Ruskin Bond as a name needs no introduction. He has been a part of our lives in some form or the other, irrespective of whether one is a reader or a non-reader. Be it movies or excerpts in syllabuses, his stories have formed a part of our world undeniably. 

He brings alive the bygone era exceptionally well in his stories where life looks simpler, happier and easier. For some unknown reasons, his stories have a certain solace which is rare to find amongst writers these days. One could always argue it is because of his memories associated with our childhood, but that doesn't take away the fact that he is magical. Be it with his words, his characters or the places he talks about in his stories, he tends to make them unforgettable. 

About the Book

In his new collection of stories, many of which have never been published before, bestselling writer Ruskin Bond collects together his finest tales of the Himalaya, the mountains he has called home for over fifty years.

One half of the book is devoted to unsettling, sometimes terrifying stories of murder, mystery, and the supernatural. Kicking off with the sinister ‘Rhododendrons in the Mist’, a brand-new story, this section assembles chilling stories like ‘A Face in the Dark’, ‘Eyes of the Cat’, ‘Panther’s Moon’, and ‘The Skull’.

The second section comprises tales that concern themselves with the everyday drama of life in the Himalaya. Starting with the autobiographical ‘Breakfast at Barog’, which has never before appeared in print, this section includes timeless stories like ‘The Blue Umbrella’, ‘The Cherry Tree’, and ‘A Long Walk for Bina’. The book concludes with an enthralling new story, ‘The Garden of Dreams’. Singular and unforgettable, Ruskin Bond’s new collection shows us once again why he is the country’s most addictive writer.

About the Author

RUSKIN BOND is the author of several bestselling novels and collections of short stories, essays, and poems. These include The Room on the Roof (winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), A Flight of Pigeons, The Night Train at Deoli, Time Stops at Shamli, Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra (winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award), Angry River, The Blue Umbrella, Delhi is Not Far, Rain in the Mountains, Tigers for Dinner, Tales of Fosterganj, A Gathering of Friends, Upon An Old Wall Dreaming, Small Towns, Big Stories, Unhurried Tales, and A Gallery of Rascals.

This book is divided into two parts namely The Dark Side of Mountains and The Himalayan Drama with more than ten short stories in each segment to suit the respective themes. Hand picked by none other than David Davidar for this collection, these are some of the best works of the author Ruskin Bond. While the first section deals with dark stories the second section is the opposite. In toto, these stories are a brilliant compilation of some of the finest tales from the mountains, on the mountains.

While there has been no doubt about this writing prowess, what continues to mesmerize a reader is his ability to concoct stories from mountains out of common people taking ordinary everyday instances. He manages to weave exemplary magic around them to create extra-ordinary stories.

The key to his stories has always been the same - simplicity. Be it the language, the presentation, narrative, description or his characters. Each and every thing about his stories has been simple and perhaps that is exactly what strikes a chord with the reader in a manner that leaves a mark.

Even in these stories, while he talks about their hardships you do feel for them however, he doesn't make it sound like a pity party where their pain or their challenges are being used to gain sympathy. On the contrary he makes the reader understand their trials and connect it with to an extent that when they become triumphant, the reader also ends up feeling jubilant. These bite sized stories make up for a perfect anytime read. Be it in between work, one sip before going to bed or an impromptu read while waiting for someone at a café. They have the ability to transport you to a unique world of theirs, albeit temporarily and remind you how beautiful life is, if observed closely.
One of the most interesting aspects about his writing is that there are no judgements or morals given in any of these stories. There are moments when you feel bad for someone or express anger about a character but the onus of those actions lies on you, dear reader. The writer has in no way expressed any of these and that is what makes him a favourite of some many readers across generations.

His characters develop a bond with the readers with their sheer honesty that reflects in the words and become unforgettable. They, with their creator are responsible for making mountains seem like a friendly terrain where one needs to venture to experience its beauty and bask in it. That is when one is able to hear the secrets those cold winds and icy mountains hold within.

This collection of stories also highlights Bond's ability to write across genres and themes with equal ease. He can create fear, elate joy and make you experience heartbreak all in one breath. By talking about the challenges of living in the mountains along with highlighting their beauty, Bond seems to be looking for a redemption. 

Bringing together his decades of experience of living in the mountains, he talks about what life looks like, as he sees it. The fear, the mystery, the romance and the adulation, all are palpable in these stories for a reader to enjoy till the last word.  Bond's stories bring in hope in times of despair as they radiate positivity. His characters are optimistic to an extent that it is infectious. Their never say die attitude despite what life serves them is highly inspiring. 

Overall, a masterpiece by a maestro himself which is strongly recommended for its memories and experiences. This book needs to be read and lived, to be understood. 

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