Zenova 20 – Finest Assortment of Short Stories by Reetwika Banerjee, as the name suggests, is a book filled with twenty short stories. Let’s take a sneak peek into one of her stories. A teenage girl, whose name remains untold, narrates her adventurous and romantic trip to an isolated tourist attraction spot, Salbani. In the midst of their enjoyment of the lounge of the rest house, she notices an incredibly handsome guy named Ayan and gets smitten by his looks. After getting his attention and a quick chit chat, they exchange their cell phone numbers. They begin texting each other, and she falls head over heels for Ayan. Her heart longs for his expression of love for her, but destiny (0r Ayan) had other plans for them. Just the moment I thought to myself,” Okay, so it’s another love story,” Reetwika left me shocked with the way she ended the story.
The major attribute of most of her stories in the book remains the unpredictable climax, which was fascinating to me. Her favorite recipe of cooking up a short story is the tragedy; however, the stories are not entirely dark. Following her, as she narrates these short stories, one must be ready to be thrown from the cliff. There, I warned you! The stories are filled with an exciting description of many secluded tourist attractions, which shows her love for travel. Readers, who enjoy collecting information about their next probable travel destination, could learn a lot about spots like Salbani, Kumaon, Dharchula, Munsiyari, Chaukori among many others. For more than 50% of the stories, I was wonderstruck by the diversity of her stories. There were stories about a pet, a transgender, a criminal case, historic personalities (fiction, though) and what not! This variety has the strength of binding a reader to the book. She did not spend a lot of time painting the characters in the head of the readers, but I did not mind her skipping this unnecessary effort because the stories managed to hold my interest even without it.
Reetwika’s stories of this book have elements of tragedy, humor, horror, and useful lessons for life. Through her stories, she has shared her wisdom of travel, but that’s not the only thing that she has done. Using a narrative writing style, she has imparted a few thought-provoking lessons to her readers. It is clear from a few of her stories that she has used this book as a medium to convert the carefree society to behave in a more socially responsible and respectful manner. She has shed light to the social deformities of the Indian society. In a few of her stories, a reader can almost hear her plea for help for the poor and downtrodden women. Additionally, her story, Fatty Mona, urges the human race to look beyond a person’s physical appearances, and most importantly, to not mock one another for our deformities. However, not all the stories have been written with the intention of teaching the readers. Some of these stories are just good to read fiction.
I applaud the author for her excellent imagination; yet, I believe she could have done away with only 10-12 stories. The amazing twist of the stories in the beginning chapters of the book had set a very high standard for the rest of the stories, which was lost in the last few stories. Three to four stories ended in just a long dialogue or one short thought process of the narrator, and I did not find any value in that.
All said and done, Zenova 20 is a fast-paced book, filled with surprises. I would recommend it to the readers who have no time to follow a thick book and who are looking for a quick non-boring read.
P.S. I have received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.