Confessions on an Island – Ayan Pal
If you have ever witnessed Russian Matryoshka Dolls, those intriguing little nesting figures that magically appear, one after the other, from one single doll, you will realize how similarly Ayan Pal’s resourceful imagination produces stories, one after the other, in easy succession.
‘Confessions on an Island’ talks about a storyteller who gets trapped in her own maze of tales, a sinister man who holds her ransom for apparently his own devious ends, and an island that listens, patient and sympathetic, an unwilling witness to the events being played out on it.
The storyteller is thrown into an unexpected situation. “It had seemed like the perfect plan. But maybe it was a little too perfect – for someone else.”
The hint of intrigue stays with the reader throughout the book keeping him teetering on the edge of his seat. Every story narrated leads to another born out of the one that went before, “one Matryoshka popping out of another till there is nothing but emptiness that remains.” The rules are simple; the stories have to continue, much like a Scheherazade routine being played out by her, “like the trapped princess from the Arabian Nights”. The abductor reveals his mind slowly, revelling in his “mind games and manipulations”. Once the storyteller begins to fathom a little of what is on his mind, she also begins to tease him with possibilities.
Ayan proves that he is a master storyteller as he opens out the recesses of his mind to reveal glimpses as varied as Sita and the golden deer with silver spots, the Greek legend of the siren luring voyagers into the sea, the iconic bronze splendour of Copenhagen’s “The Little Mermaid” whose face echoes the pain that only she can see, “the Nordic and Scandinavian interpretation of classical cuisines by executive chef, Rene Redzepi, ‘The Wooden Walk’ that transports one to medieval England, and shape-shifting demons. He is meticulous in his details as he describes the island in Sabah, in Malaysia, and that “the mountain rising like a sentinel in the Northeast is Mount Kinabalu”. Food also plays a vital role in the book as varied cuisines are described with loving detail.
As a bitter-sweet tableau of lust and hate is played out, with intermittent moments of longing, the mysteries get cleared up, one by one, as every tale brings forth a further twist, till the very end when the reader is silenced with a denouement that overwhelms, as all the loose threads get woven together to form a perfect tapestry.
Ayan displays a writing style that proves compelling when he tells his medley of tales, but at times there is a vulnerability that moves one to tears. One is filled with a compulsion to read on as each story casts a shadow on events looming ahead, finally bringing an end to “this mangled story of passion”.
The novel ends on a note of hope which suggests that a sequel could well be in the offing, “with someone else, some other day.” That day will be worth waiting for, as another “literary jigsaw” turns into yet another “gripping novel”.
To buy Confessions on an Island
To buy Confessions on an Island